Welcome back to City Hall, where the city council's Quality of Life Committee is hearing from a blue-ribbon panel of downtown homelessness players, led by MDHA's Mike Faenza and the city's Housing/Community Services director Jerry Killingsworth. Up next is the briefing Robert mentioned on the Garland Road Vision Study, but first: Faenza is doing his best to liven up a slideshow called The Bridge -- Dallas' Way Back Home.
"As a community, as a family we've done a great job of assimilating in that community and being positive," Faneza tells the committee, reminding them of the city's need for 400 extra shelter beds before The Bridge opened, and DPD's Assistant Chief Vince Golbeck is up now to talk crime in the neighborhood, where he reiterates the reduction in crime around the four reporting areas he says they normally associate with The Bridge. "We have a 19 percent crime reduction in downtown Dallas," he says, which means 240 fewer offenses. "Statistics don't paint the whole picture," he says before playing to his committee audience: "We have to look at the quality of life."
Dan Millet, who runs a print shop downtown -- and who Jim spoke with last week -- is here to speak for business owners around The Bridge. Millet "violently opposed" The Bridge before it opened, he reminds the committee, but now he's a true believer (Among other of The Bridge's neighbors, there are outspoken exceptions.). "They have turned out to be the most gracious, worthwhile neighbors that we have ever had," and of Faenza and The Bridge's director Jay Dunn, Millet says, "We think they're absolutely saints. They treat their guests with extreme dignity. My only complaint is that they're underfunded."
Millet makes a passing mention to permanent supportive housing, and Faenza runs with it, to drive home a point that's been a tough sell of late. "It's all about housing," Faenza says. "People need to be able to recover from homelessness in substantial numbers."
Dunn alludes to the great challenges they're facing based on the population they're serving at The Bridge Davis asks for more details on "the challenges" at The Bridge. Faenza jumps in to explain that 900 of the 1,400 people there on a given day are being treated for schizophrenia and other mental health problems, and hundreds more aren't even being treated. "We are only able to to get our arms around a third of the people we're seeing at The Bridge." The public mental health system just can't keep up with the demand, Faenza says, so they've had to rope in their own treatment options at The Bridge.
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"It's all about finding housing," Faenza chants again, because treatment is so much more successful once people are placed in supportive housing.