Shelter for the Homeless Is Controversial in Dallas

This is what passes as a controversy in Dallas: providing homes to people transitioning out of homelessness. That’s right: fulfilling the basic human rights of struggling community members is problematic for more affluent Dallasites. NIMBYism at its best.

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4 thoughts on “Shelter for the Homeless Is Controversial in Dallas

  1. Oh my, you have literally landed right in my backyard on this one! Since this is happening in my neighborhood (I know Scott Griggs, he’s an advocate for a lot of good things in our area but we apparently don’t see eye-to-eye on this) I can provide a bit more of the rumor-mill I’ve picked up here.
    Hilariously, my reaction was exactly the same as yours, and I made a joke about it to my stylist the last time I got a haircut. He’s a very liberal guy, not a rich developer but someone who moved here years ago and has been a decidedly good influence on the community. I made a bitter joke about wanting to strangle all my white neighbors for throwing a fit when some homeless people in our area are actually given HOMES.
    He visibly winced, and I found out he shares a lot of their objections. He was humiliated by the arrogance of the neighborhood associations but they were mostly in agreement. His first point was that S. Dallas (all the locations mentioned in the article are in S. Dallas) already has the vast majority of the homeless, shelters, halfway houses, etc. in the city. He would like to see N. Dallas (wealthy and white, overwhelmingly so) take a share of at-risk citizens.
    His other concern was that while the program sounds nice on paper, that effectively it would leave 100 chronically homeless (he said the program was supposed to rehabilitate the ‘worst of the worst’ – drug addiction and mental problems) with no supervision running Amok. In this case I think less a vote of distrust at the residents, and more a distrust of Dallas City Gov’t doing anything at all without fucking it up but good.

    If I didn’t make a very good case for him it’s because I am not in agreement at all, I just wanted to let you know what I’ve heard on the ground here.

    BTW, the plan is moving fwd – the comments section of this article is illuminating: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/072810dnmetcliffmanor.25198b0f.html

  2. Thanks for the illumination! It’s great to hear the nuances from someone in the middle of the mess.

    I find this North Dallas vs. South Dallas placement thing interesting. The article you linked to seems to suggest that there will be dozens of individuals places in North Dallas. Did I read it wrong? Is the issue that significantly more will be placed in South Dallas? If it is true that North Dallas is significantly wealthier and whiter, these placement decisions seem to follow an old pattern.

    I still don’t get why people are objecting. Do they think they are safer when these people live in desperation on the streets? I was surprised by the callousness of some of the comments at the article you linked to. The poor-bashing was in full swing. I don’t understand very well how people come to hate the poor and to think of them as “free-loaders”. I would like to hear an explanation of how our economic system would work if there were no poor people. Who would do the dirty work that middle-class people refuse to do? Our system requires stratification. Not that I agree with that, just saying.

  3. Yeah, I found a comment after I wrote that last night talking about a project in far N. Dallas that was already implemented. The feeling I get is that there are dozens of projects ‘slated’ for N. Dallas, none of which will ever happen because if you think the backlash in Oak Cliff is ugly, it would be much worse in N. Dallas, which is indeed much wealthier and whiter.

    I agree that it’s unconscionable and ugly to challenge this project in this way. My response is to greet it with open arms and support it to help ensure the project actually succeeds. Some of the commenters complain that those poor people do not integrate into the community. Really? I can’t imagine why when they are immediately greeted by a giant white wave of suspicion and downright hatred.

    The only thing that tempers my outrage at all is that I am keenly aware that as a renter who’s been in OC for less than a year, I am not invested the way those people are. I’m tying to respect their point of view, and I’m wondering what the best way to counter their objections is.
    The insidious way property values slink down as soon as a project like that is built provides a powerful motivator to oppose. The stylist I mentioned is a home-owner, he owns his business, and he is the landlord for the whole building his salon is in. He’s not a rich fuckstick, he just invested in the neighborhood 10 years ago when very few whites dared to venture South.
    However, the OC zip code is over 90% Hispanic, many of them middle-class, and the majority of the people protesting this are the tiny white minority. We are just arrogant enough to think we have the ‘right’ to keep these people, as you say, out of our backyard. Arrogant or not though, the white folks who have moved down here are the most Progressive and open-minded in the city, I am not prepared to just scream racist and start a fight with them the way I am with all of North Dallas (Highland Park’s Mega-Mansions fill me so full of malice.)
    How does one address the safety and property-value concerns of these people in a way that sparks introspection rather than defensiveness and outrage? That’s the struggle I’m in right now, anyone have thoughts?

  4. Yeah, that IS a struggle. I don’t know what to say to such people. I have no experience being a home-owner, no experience ‘protecting my investment’ or whathaveyou. I’ve never had an income that put homeownership in my grasp.

    My reaction is that I find it disheartening that people who have so much would be so cold to those with so little. Yet I’m not entirely sure that shaming such people would really work.

    Regarding the safety concerns, I can say that I have lived near shelters, food kitchens, homes for the mentally disabled, public housing, and housing for people transitioning out of homelessness. And I have also been homeless myself. Neither myself nor any of my roommates have been the victims of crime as a result. In fact, I have always got along just fine with my neighbors, no matter what their socio-economic status or the natural of their disabilities.

    So I guess all I have to offer to convince haters is my personal story. But since I have experienced homelessness and mental disability myself, I’m sure they would immediately discredit my story and go back to hating.

    Or maybe personal stories could work… I don’t know.

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