Saturday, December 12, 2009

A New Beginning


From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, there is a constant flow of potential tenants coming into our office to be interviewed by our wonderful outreach coordinators, Naquanna Comeaux and Kevin Flagg. The interview process brings forth many stories from those who are currently homeless to those who are part-time college students and employees.

Once potential tenants complete the interview, they are directed to Pinnacle Realty (our property management company at CityWalk) to start the application process. The application process includes criminal and credit screenings and filling out a great deal of documents required by the management company and the state of Texas. Many fail to meet the criteria and are denied because of their criminal or credit background check or both. Of course, those who receive this news are very disappointed. I have heard many stories and I am sympathetic because I know there is a lack of affordable housing, especially for those with a criminal past.

One rainy day, a young man whom I will call “Daniel” to protect his identity came in for his interview. He was scheduled to interview with Kevin. As the interview ended, Kevin informed Daniel that his criminal background would probably disqualify him for the application process. Not knowing his story, I was initially impressed that Daniel rode the bus and was an hour early to his appointment on a rainy day. Kevin took Daniel to meet with Pinnacle and they confirmed that due to his criminal past, he would be denied residency for CityWalk.

Kevin came to me to see if I could offer Daniel any other housing options. I started to give him my usual response, which is, all of our properties were filled and the waiting list is about a year out and the other affordable housing properties I know would have the same criteria. I decided to sit down with Kevin and Daniel to see if I could help direct him. Daniel told me that he had served time in the juvenile detention system for possession of a controlled substance. He had served his time and his probation term. To date, he had no other legal issues and has a part-time job at a restaurant as a cashier. He has even enrolled in El Centro Community College and was awarded financial aid to pay for his entire year of school.

Daniel said he was determined to make a new start in his life. He did not want to return to his hometown in East Texas, where all of his criminal troubles began because he could not find adequate housing. He said he had heard about CityWalk from a caseworker at the Texas Workforce Commission and thought it would be an ideal place for him since it was located in downtown Dallas where he would be attending school.

I guess what touched me most about Daniel was the fact that even though he was denied for CityWalk, he still maintained a positive outlook that something “good” would work out for him. He possessed a rare spirit of hope and humbleness, something that I don’t see often in people who have struggled as Daniel has. I made a call to my property manager at our apartment complex located in East Dallas to see if we had anything available. She stated that a unit had become available due to a recent eviction. I asked Daniel if he was ready for some good news and, of course, he was open to what I had to tell him. I told him about the opening and asked if he wanted to take a look at it. He was totally speechless. He had been accustomed to hearing “no” and he could not believe that there was a possible “yes” in sight.

Kevin and I drove him over to the apartment to meet with the property manager and see the unit. I told him if he liked the apartment, I would like to have him as a tenant. Daniel was speechless and in total awe. I told him that all we needed from him was that he be a good neighbor and a responsible tenant. He said he was ready to be both. He was so grateful for the new opportunity. I was grateful to be a part of his new beginning.

(Update – Daniel has paid his deposit and has received his January school schedule. He is in search of furnishings for his new apartment.)

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