After months of back-and-forth between neighborhood groups and those pushing for expanded homeless services outside of downtown Dallas, the Dallas City Council unanimously signed off on a zoning change that will allow a new campus for the Salvation Army to be built in northwest Dallas.
The new campus, located on North Stemmons Freeway, about a mile southwest of Love Field, will be an emergency shelter and provide treatment for substance abuse, in addition to hosting transitional and permanent supportive housing for those coming out of homelessness.
Margot Perot, the wife of billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot Sr., trekked all the way to the City Council's off-site meeting in Kleberg to advocate for the project.
"The need is great, and as Dallas grows, we need a better and larger social service center," Perot said. "This project is exactly what we need ... I know that we in Dallas can trust these men and women to do exactly what they say they will do."
There's been little disagreement throughout the debate over the project about the need for the new $95 million campus. The Salvation Army's current facility on Harry Hines Boulevard lacks the size or sophistication needed to treat as many clients as the organization would like. Instead, the debate has centered on neighboring property owners who feared the environment the 20-acre project would create.
In the days and weeks before Wednesday's decision, the Salvation Army and critics of the project worked out a deal with the help of Omar Narvaez, the City Council member for west and northwest Dallas' District 6.
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Deed restrictions on the campus will require 24-hour security and improved lighting. The Salvation Army also agreed not to allow any sex offenders to stay on the property.
"This was never a referendum on the Salvation Army or the good works that they do," Narvaez said. "This was always about land use. ... We are setting a precedent for our city that will probably last the next 25, 30 or even 40 years on how we start to address the crisis that is happening in our city."
In addition to the council vote, the Salvation Army got good news from Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot. The district attorney pledged $100,000 in discretionary funds to the campus to be used for housing homeless men or women accused of criminal trespass who would otherwise be sent to the Dallas County Jail.
Said Creuzot, "The jail has become the default location for people who are nuisances, who are mentally ill, who are homeless, who are drug addicted, and that is unacceptable."