Thursday, December 17, 2009

Unwelcome Mat Comments, Part II

(continuing responses to the Dallas Morning News article from last Sunday, which can be found here:

The comment below repeats a common objection to permanent, supportive housing projects:

The problem with the Plaza development is its viability. The size and physical layout of the building would create a huge management undertaking, one that few developers of low income-specific needs housing such as this, adequately plan for. Support services aside, to provide a safe, decent and secure place for a homeless transitioning population to live, you MUST be able to "control the night" and manage the property and tenants 24/7. The qualified staff to make this happen at the Plaza would be significant.

When you first read a comment like this it seems entirely reasonable. Permanent supportive housing projects are not easy and do require a significant management effort. As far as I know, this commentator may be only pointing out a reasonable concern.

On the other hand, if you’ve been working in this area for a few years, then it’s hard to accept such comments at face value. Most of the time the people making the comments aren’t raising reasonable concerns that can be satisfied, because as soon as one issue is resolved they raise another objection—then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, continuing on into infinity.

I find it hard to believe in the good faith of a commentator like this for a couple of reasons. First, the size and physical layout of the Plaza is perfect for a permanent, supportive housing project. The hotel has the right sized rooms and a front desk area that controls the only entrance into the building. That’s exactly what you want for a permanent, supportive housing project. The Plaza also has a fully fenced and controlled parking area, which gives you even better control of the premises.

In short, the Plaza would be one of the easiest properties to control that I’ve looked at.

Second, I think I’ve seen all the plans to provide services and management at the Plaza, and I’ve had input into most of them, and all the plans call for a very substantial management effort, including a secured building, 24/7 front desk coverage and at least one case worker for every 20 residents.

These projects have been successful everywhere else. I’ve personally visited developments in San Diego, Houston, Austin, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. No one is inventing anything new here, and I refuse to believe that we can’t do in Dallas what people in every other city in the country seem to be doing successfully.

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