Saturday, January 2, 2010

Questions and Answers about the Formerly Homeless Persons at CityWalk

I participate fairly often (for me) in discussions on the Dallas Fort Worth Urban Forum ( It’s one of the most interesting, intelligent discussion forums I’ve ever seen. If you are interested in the redevelopment of Dallas, then it’s a must. (I probably shouldn’t bring it to your attention, because sometimes it’s a place where I can blow off steam rather than be endlessly polite to my critics). In any event, some time ago I posted an explanation of our role in relation to the formerly homeless persons that will be living at CityWalk (and it was recently reposted there by someone else). I think it has enough general interest to appear on the CityWalk blog, so I’m reproducing it here verbatim, even if on reading it I wish I had been a little more politically correct:

How long do you think those 50 will stay?

I don't know. Some will find a job and move up to a fancier place. Some may stay until they die.

Will you encourage them to have a place of employment and to move on?

This requires a little explanation. Central Dallas CDC, which I run, is a real estate company--our target market is just lower income people. Our job is to try to build a nice place where people enjoy living and to make sure they pay their rent and follow the rules. If they pay the rent, then, as far as we're concerned, they are a good person.

But if they are being subsidized on their rent, then they have to be retired, disabled, or working. So many of the formerly homeless tenants won't have any choice but to work. Central Dallas Ministries will help them to find work. But I'm not about encouraging anybody to move on. I am going to try to make 511 N. Akard such a wonderful place to live that nobody ever wants to leave. No matter how much money they make.

The fact remains is that people can find those who were once homeless who have now put their life back together and contribute to society. I hope that is CDM's goal otherwise it would be a waste. I have family who have donated their time and money to the homeless. There are some who want to make it, others who don't. If there is someone who is not meeting the criteria will they be put out of the building?

The criteria to stay in the building are simple. Pay your rent and obey the building rules. If someone does that, then I'm happy. The government agencies providing rent subsidies have other rules. Central Dallas Ministries will be providing services and has additional goals. But I'm not the parent of the tenant's living at 511 N. Akard. Just like any other building owner, I provide a place to live in return for rent. That's hard enough to do well with a low income population.

Do you set certain goals that they have to meet besides passing a background check? I hope so. My thought is that CDM should turn out people who can now give back to Dallas with their tax dollars like it or not.

Once again, pay the rent and obey the rules. Those are the goals of Central Dallas CDC. Central Dallas Ministries has additional goals--but tenants won't have to meet them to stay in the building. We don't have any interest in establishing a nanny state.

Oh yeah and I was reading an article when the whole project was brought to light. Why did you not notify First Baptist? It would seem to be the right thing to do keeping with your mission statement. I found that quite disturbing - there are children there.

We notified everyone we were required to notify under the state's rules--including posting a 4' by 8' sign in the front window with my name and telephone number on it for about a year--at least 7 months before we were awarded tax credits. The headmaster of First Baptist came and spoke against the project at City Council, so he certainly knew about it. My understanding is that he circulated a letter to all First Baptist parents urging them to oppose the project--but almost no parents did so (and First Baptist now has a new headmaster). We met with people from First Baptist at the church. At least one official from the church will be on the advisory committee we are forming--any person here can also be on the committee if you let me know. The only limit I'll set is if the committee gets so large it's unwieldy.

I might add that both my children attended First Baptist Academy from the 7th through 12th grade, and graduated from it. So I know very well that children are in the neighborhood. The Pegasus Charter School is also located in the YMCA next door. Our tenants will be screened and we will have security, both inside and outside the building. I can't say there is no danger--because wherever you have people there is some risk. But I am confident that our tenants won't pose any more risk to the neighborhood than the residents at the Mosaic across the street. Maybe less because we will have more systems of supervision in place. Poor people aren't more dangerous than wealthier people, they just have less money.

Certainly not everyone agrees, and my academic training was in the liberal arts and law, but my understanding of the gospels is that we are commanded to help the least among us. Sometimes that command is uncomfortable to put into practice.

Even though it may not seem to come off as encouragement I hope you do succeed. Remember, teach people how to fish; don’t give them one.

Thank you for your good wishes.

John Greenan

No comments:

Post a Comment