In June, after months of debate and a glaring need, the Dallas City Council passed an ordinance regulating the 300 or so boarding homes that provide -- or sometimes merely purport to -- shelter and support to the mentally ill.
The ordinance addresses a wide range of issues, from sexual abuse and exploitation (a no-no) to staff training (mandatory) to bedroom size (70 square feet per person), hygiene (sheets, towels, and toilet paper must be provided, and they must be clean). It also requires boarding home operators, many of whom are seldom, if ever, on site to register with the city at a cost of $500.
The new rules officially took effect on October 1, 2012, but code compliance has given operators a bit of a grace period as the city has worked to educate operators on the new requirements. That month, they visited known boarding homes and handed out information on the ordinance and provided registration forms. In November, the city hosted a conference that was attended by representatives from 125 boarding homes.
But operators have been slow to respond. According to a memo sent to the Dallas City Council by assistant city manager Joey Zapata, the city has received only 95 applications. That number is dwarfed by the 226 notices of violation sent to homes that have not registered.
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The next step, set to begin March 18, is to issue citations. Those will cost $500 and incentivize boarding home operators to stop dragging their feet. That's the idea at least.