By Arielle Johnson
Recently, Councilman Kevin Felder stood in front of a group of South Dallas residents at the Martin Luther King Center, at a Town Hall meeting, prepared to discuss the City of Dallas’ $3.1 billion budget to attendees. His intention was to provide attendees with a general overview of what items the city can expect to see take priority over others, in accordance with the different percentages of the overall budget being allocated to different sectors. If you attended last night’s meeting, it would have been difficult to miss the Councilman’s intention because of the amount of different experts he brought with him from downtown; and if there was any doubt, you would have had the powerpoint presentation presented by the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Elizabeth Reich, clear that up for you in a matter of minutes. However, after the presentation, the attendees zeroed in on their area of interest: Homelessness.
The first woman to raise her concerns about the homeless population mentioned it appears as if the homeless are simply moving from one spot to another, like a group of nomads. Although our news team was not able to get a word from Nadia Chandler-Hardy, the Chief of Community Relations last week, she was at the meeting last night prepared to answer any and all questions concerning the homeless. In response to the woman’s question she stated the following: “The budget set aside for homelessness will go into effect on October 1. We will be making an effort to connect individuals to services, instead of saying, ‘Here’s a referral to a shelter or referral to a rapid re-housing.’ We will be telling people in need of assistance, there are beds available for them to go into a previously identified shelters right at their moment of need.” Councilman Felder added his assessment of the needs of the homeless based upon a recent visit to an encampment, citing physical abuse, rape and mental illness as some of the problems plaguing this population. He went on to add, while people are berating him about his suggestion to offer homeless people stray animals to train, a company in Plano, Texas has already offered to train and employ the homeless.
Another Town Hall meeting attendee, Jay Scroggins, one of the main community leaders to assist with the creation of South Dallas/Fair Park public improvement district, and ultimately offer jobs to the homeless population through the P.I.D., asked exactly how much of the $1.6 million dollars designated for the homeless is actually going to be used for transitional housing. Nadia Chandler-Hardy responded to him by letting him know the city is in talks now with property owners and apartment owners about taking in members of the homeless population. She also stated her department is going to take a hard look at non-profits the city has contracted with to provide solutions to homelessness to determine whether or not they are doing what they have been contracted to do. “Are we really putting a dent in the problem and are we doing what we intended to do by contracting with these non-profits?” Nadia appeared to ask, then followed up her question by letting everyone at the meeting know, it is her job to investigate the effectiveness of these organizations.
Next up was another woman in attendance who asked Councilman Felder why he is suggesting, the homeless be housed in foreclosed properties in South Dallas/District 7. He responded by telling her he never suggested foreclosed properties in District 7 per se as housing solutions for the homeless, but was speaking of the City of Dallas in general. When she challenged him about his response, he reiterated what he said earlier about foreclosed properties all over Dallas being potential housing solutions for the homeless, then told the woman in so many words he was done talking about it – Next!
What’s interesting is the fact that all of the City Council Briefings are available online. If you access the archived briefing which took place on Wednesday, August 2nd at Dallas City Hall, you will be able to see Councilman Felder state, “The City of Dallas owns a lot of foreclosed properties in District 7. Many of the city’s homeless are in District 7. Take those homes off of the tax foreclosure list to be utilized for the homeless. Why put them on the tax foreclosure list? Rehab the homes and put the people in those homes. Funds being used for emergency shelter homeless prevention should be re-allocated to rehab those properties. We are warehousing them and feeding them and that’s it. We need to put them on a path to get back into society. The first step is to give them a transitional place to stay.” Anyone can access this archived briefing by visiting, http://www.dallascitynews.net/watch-live. You can find Councilman Felder here saying what he said he never stated about District 7. If you don’t have time to watch the briefing in its entirety, just go to Item A – City Manager’s Proposed FY17-18 HUD Consolidated Plan Briefing Update and skip to 21:17 to hear Councilman Felder.
Obviously, the people in City Hall are starting to recognize the power of the Black Community in District 7. What other reason would there be for the Councilman to deny what he said about rehabing foreclosed properties in South Dallas. Also, we reported on the press conference held Brother Thomas Mohammed last week, where he called for the withholding of all public funds from CitySquare and the Bridge until the homeless population, especially those from Tent City get assistance. Somehow, Nadia Chandler-Hardy got a hold of the news clip which aired later on that evening on most of the news channels, which is how she knows she has to scrutinize these non-profits in the upcoming weeks to check for efficacy. If they are not working, there is no need to continue funding them.