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…)

By Cynthia Weatherall
Special Contributor

I attended Wednesday’s City Council meeting when the council was briefed on proposed homeless strategies by Monica Hardman, the managing director of the city’s Office of Homeless Solutions. This was the fiery meeting where the “Track 2” proposal to transport the homeless across the city stirred citizens to action as few topics can do — unless it comes to protecting your home. Thankfully, the proposed strategy, which would have established temporary “roving” shelters for homeless people at recreation centers, was roundly dismissed, not only by most city council members, but by the directors of current shelters.

That was a relief. But I attended the briefing and the Q and A, and I’m concerned by what hasn’t been widely reported about various OTHER proposals.

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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

Photo courtesy of Travis Swan via a Creative Commons license

Photo courtesy of Travis Swan via a Creative Commons license

Gather up your new and gently used coats and blankets for adults and kids because it’s time for the annual coat and blanket drive by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Dallas/Park Cities office.

Collected items will go to the Dallas ISD Coat Closet and the Oak Lawn Community Outreach Center Clothes Closet for families in need and for the homeless.

The drive runs from Monday, Dec. 8 to Saturday, Dec. 13. Drop-off times are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Home pick-up is also available by calling 214-521-0044.

New and gently used coats for adults and children as well as blankets will be accepted at the Coldwell Banker Dallas/Park Cities office located at 7001 Preston Road, Suite 125, located at the corner of Preston and Hyer Street.

“Each year, thousands of adults and children go without proper coats to keep them warm, and our employees and sales associates vowed this year that they wanted to make a difference,” said Keith Head, managing broker of the Dallas/Park Cities office. “So if you have a coat that no longer fits or that your family doesn’t use anymore, or if you have spare blankets that you can donate, it’s an easy way to help someone in need this holiday season.”

The need for coats and blankets is very real for many North Texas families this year. In Dallas County alone, 18.8 percent of people were living below the federal poverty level, according to Healthy North Texas, and the largest percentage of those were children. For a family of four, that means an annual income of $23,850.

Additionally, Texas is one of five states that accounts for more than half of the homeless population in the United States, with almost 30,000 homeless counted in 2013, according to the Texas Homeless Network. For these people, your donation of a warm coat or blanket can make a lifesaving difference.