Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who Shall Bell the Cat?, Part III

[The first two parts of this discussion appeared on March 13 and 14, if you are interested in going back to read them.]

For the past month, since I wrote the first two parts of this series, I’ve been thinking about where Dallas needs to build its permanent supportive housing. This isn’t a new topic for me—we’ve been working for more than four years on building permanent supportive housing. No matter how long I think about it, I come to the same conclusions. The only places that work are near downtown, or near excellent mass transportation.

We’ve looked at permanent supportive housing projects all over the country, and have yet to find a successful project that isn’t located in one of these two ways. There is a story about a man in Tennessee (I think Memphis, but I’ve heard different cities so the story may be apocryphal) that tried to solve homelessness on his own. He owned a large tract of land about a dozen miles outside of the city, so he built a tent city, installed porta-toilets, a mess tent and arranged to have food brought in. Then he invited homeless people to move there. Only a few came, and the people that did soon left. They were isolated, without transportation and had no reasonable way to access the services they needed.

Saying either near downtown or near excellent mass transportation doesn’t even begin to pick a specific location. It only rules out most locations in most of the City of Dallas. Now we need to think about not only what both of terms mean—what is “near” and what is “excellent”, but about neighborhood influences, political realities and, most importantly, cost and financing

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