The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released their 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) that’s sent to Congress. The most striking thing about the report is how much it seems to take credit for the Obama (and Bush) eras while downplaying the Trump administration’s failings. While HUD crows about homelessness decreasing by 13.2 percent since 2010, overall homelessness has increased in both 2017 and 2018, as has the number of unsheltered homeless (living on the street versus in a shelter). I’d hazard a guess that the concerted decrease in sheltered homeless beginning in 2016 is the result of Obama-era facilities coming online to serve the homeless.

HUD blames the increases on various natural disasters, but fails to explain the 2015-2016 drop in sheltered homeless. Long-term homeless increased by 2.2 percent in the past year, but again are down 16.4 percent compared to 2010.

Just this morning it was reported that after leaving food assistance programs alone in the recently passed farm bill, Trump is using regulatory rulemaking to attempt to trim food stamp programs. This is happening because the House and Senate opposed the measures. But not all opposed, House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, was the primary champion for tighter SNAP work requirements and praised the proposed rule change.

Under Trump’s rules, the work requirement would be increased from 18-49 to 18-59 years old. States would lose the ability to bank unused funds for future use and waive work requirements in cities or counties during times of high unemployment (which Trump wants to set at seven percent).

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “We would much rather have Congress enact these important reforms for the SNAP program. However, these regulatory changes by the USDA will save hardworking taxpayers $15 billion over 10 years and give President Trump comfort enough to support a farm bill he might otherwise have opposed.” That farm bill seeks to mitigate farmers’ hardships created by Trump’s various trade wars.

Clearly this will have a negative impact on national and Texas homelessness in the coming years.

On the upside, veteran homelessness has declined under Trump due to HUD and VA programs designed to target the group. Overall, veteran homelessness was down 5.4 percent since January 2017 with the female number down 10 percent.  However, since 2010, veteran homelessness is down 49 percent.

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By Abigail Kuch Reynolds
Guest Contributor

During last week’s Dallas City Council meeting, council members unanimously shot down a proposal for temporary shelters spread throughout the city in recreation centers as a temporary solution to the city’s critically growing number of homeless. In lieu of that proposal, members of the Council turned their attention to a possible full-time proposal in one location in District 7: the shuttered Timberlawn Behavioral Health System.

Timberlawn’s unsuitability as the permanent location for a homeless shelter can be argued from at least half a dozen angles. The City Council’s attention on it has left many of the surrounding area residents, such as myself, baffled at the suggestion and fearful of its serious ramifications for the area we’ve invested in as our home.

Timberlawn, a former behavioral health center, is the oldest private psychiatric facility in the state and boasts architectural beauty in a building that is more than 100 years old. These characteristics may make the main building eligible to be recognized as a historic landmark in the state of Texas. Timberlawn maintains 20 acres of sprawling landscape lined with mature trees, whose shade and dignity contribute to the elegance of the property.

The iconic landmark formerly provided private health services for those necessitating in-patient care and sits south of I-30 within Dallas city limits, minutes from the bustle of downtown Dallas. But it is nestled within a thriving residential community formally referred to as “Buckner Terrace.” The neighborhood is composed of a heterogeneous group of residents whose pride and investment in their neighborhood can be exhibited in their ability to unite in protest of a potential homeless shelter. Close to 1000 signatures on an online petition to City Council garnered in less than a week. This petition, I may note, has never been formally canvassed in-person, but is the result of viral sharing on Social Media, spreading like virtual wildfire throughout our small community.

As residents of Buckner Terrace, we represent the gentrification component in an evolving city and changing landscape of Dallas, which maintains its position as a booming metropolitan area with a stable and prosperous economic job market. It’s a location many of us chose to move to from out of state for the promise of affordable housing and a stable, cohesive community.

And now, a single City Council decision could destroy it. (more…)

As of 12:30 p.m. tonight, the petition started by Buckner Terrace resident Abbi Reynolds has expanded to 920 signatures and is quickly gaining speed. If Mayor Rawlings and the Dallas City Council chose to move ahead despite the protests of nearly 1,000 residents, I would think that would be political suicide, if not worse.

And after reading the comments on this petition, I have to agree with the neighborhood. At first blush when my City Councilman suggested it, I thought Timberlawn, because of it’s layout, would make a great homeless center — thinking more along the lines of a place where social and psychiatric services could be offered. And the price might be right: DCAD value is about $2.6

But no, no, no, for several solid reasons:

-The building is historical and should be preserved as a possible museum or cultural center. It could also be sold and made into a luxury hotel and conference center. Think I’m nuts? In June, we stayed at the Blackburn Inn in Staunton, Virgina, a luxury hotel converted from a mental institution. Built in 1828 by Thomas Jefferson’s architect as the nation’s second mental hospital, the  long-abandoned insane asylum and prison in Staunton was known as the Western State Lunatic Asylum and not an easy renovation: it took 12 years for the 33,000 square foot property but the developers are moving forward to add condos, apartments, helipads, and restored houses. Bathrooms were gorgeous (vessel tubs!) and we slept very very well, thank you.

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As of 12:30 p.m. tonight, the petition started by Buckner Terrace resident Abbi Reynolds has expanded to 500 signatures. Abbi lives adjacent to the Timberlawn property and fears for her property values, as do many residents in this area (Parkdale, Lawnview).

That was fast. Today’s Dallas City Council meeting was focused on the four track homelessness briefing, and there was a lot of discussion, explaining, even arguing over it all, especially Track II: moving the homeless to recreation centers across Dallas on a temporary basis. Almost every city council member was vehemently against Track II, with the exception of Mark Clayton and maybe Ricky Callahan. When Adam Medrano brought up an idea that had been suggested by Lee Kleinman back in February, having the city buy Timberlawn psychiatric hospital and use as a homeless shelter central, Councilman for District 7, Kevin Felder, was livid. 

And now a Change.org petition has been started, almost 30 votes last time I looked. Here’s what it says:

We as citizens of Dallas are adamantly opposed to the proposed initiative to utilize the site formerly known as Timberlawn, as a large, permanent public facility for the homeless.

We stand united and demand that our elected officials, the Dallas City Council members, hear our voices, utilize our tax dollars to better our neighborhood and our city, and act accordingly to best service us all in pursuit of our desire to be safe, effective members in our shared city of Dallas

Homelessness has increased in Dallas by 9 percent, unsheltered homelessness by 23 percent almost a quarter since 2017. There are many reasons why, too many to go into right now. You may recall when the tent city was shut down, a plan was enacted to move the homeless to Hensley Field, the site of a former naval air station near Grand Prairie. The plan hinged on $50 million in private donations to build tiny homes and other living facilities on the 350-acre lot, including lots of support services. But the media balked at the feel of “rounding up” people and concentrating services. Now the services are concentrated downtown.

But is shuffling people all over town, taking temporary shelter in recreational centers where children play and swim, a sensible approach?

I spoke to Linda Garner, who was appointed to the Citizen’s Homeless Commission by Adam Medrano, and who lives in the Cedars, ground zero for the homeless in Dallas. Linda understands the Four Track program and tells me that the solution to homelessness is to remove the concentration from downtown, where most services happen to be. I get it. It’s like sending your kid to boarding school to get him away from the riff-raff. She believes in the concept of small “boutique” shelters that exist across Dallas, but off the radar because they are in low-density areas. For example, one she discovered off Denton Drive.

“I think the temporary aspect is expensive, but we truly need to decentralize homeless services from downtown,” Linda told me. (more…)

These 20 city-owned recreation centers have been deemed “ideal” candidates to temporarily house the homeless:

These recreation centers are only deemed “good” – meaning the centers above are preferred locations. We are working to get the entire presentation up on SCRIBD 

Pop up homeless shelters may soon be coming to recreational centers all over Dallas, including North Dallas and the fringes of Preston Hollow — Fretz Park, Campbell Green, Timberglen, Walnut Hill Recreation Center, Churchill Recreation Center — if a current proposal from the newly created Office for Homeless Solutions to house Dallas’ homeless is approved by the Dallas City Council.

Why?

Apparently downtown Dallas residents who live with problems created by Dallas’ growing homeless population have encouraged the OHS to “spread them around Dallas.” (more…)