Cliff Manor homeless plan angers neighbors

At least 500 neighbors packed into the Hitt Auditorium Monday night to discuss a plan to open 100 units at Cliff Manor Apartments to otherwise homeless people who have mental illness or a past drug addiction. Overwhelmingly, the crowd was against the Dallas Housing Authority’s plan. And they lined up by the dozens to face the city’s homeless czar and housing authority representatives with questions, comments and scornful criticism.

The meeting, which District 3 Council member David Neumann organized, also included Mayor Tom Leppert, who agreed to put the plan on hold until Oak Cliff residents could have a say. The meeting teetered on the brink of chaos, and at one point, the mayor himself calmed an irate neighbor who yelled at homeless czar Mike Rawlings out of turn.

In the end, Rawlings agreed that there were “about half a dozen things that have been said tonight that were substantive, and we are going to take them into consideration.”

Leppert suggested that for the plan to be successful, neighbors not only would have to accept it but also embrace it. Otherwise, he said, it might not be a worthwhile pursuit for the housing authority. But that “we can turn it around. I’ve seen it happen.”

Here are some of the main points from the opposition:

  • Council District 3, which includes parts of West Dallas and North Oak Cliff, already has a disproportionate number of housing authority properties compared to other districts. Some argued that the neighborhood is a “dumping ground” for low-income housing.
  • Cliff Manor is fewer than 200 feet from Stevens Park Elementary School.
  • Jobs in Oak Cliff are scarce, so it would be difficult for 100 people to find work in the neighborhood.
  • Fort Worth Avenue is undergoing redevelopment, and there is some concern that developers could pull out for fear that the change would affect property values.
  • The quality of the building is outdated, and the neighborhood already is a hotbed for crime, including prostitution and drug sales.

And here are some points from the housing authority and the plan’s proponents:

  • The residents who would move to Cliff Manor are people who have done work to prove that they are responsible enough to live on their own with help.
  • A fulltime case worker would be onsite for them. The housing authority has hired a property manager who also has a background in social work. And all the staff is trained to deal with the particular problems these residents are likely to have.
  • There would be zero tolerance for drug abuse or violent crime among residents.
  • Properties adjacent to successful permanent supportive housing communities in New York City and Fort Worth have increased in value.
  • Homeless people often are misunderstood. Statistics show they are unlikely to be criminals.

More town hall meetings are expected.


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  • Jason Wright

    I’m really interested in learning why this will help our neighborhood, which is something all the homeless advocates kept saying. I work at a non-profit, and I know that we all have agendas we push. However, it’s important that we back up what we say. They were completely unprepared last night with any factual information to help make their argument.

    Again, I believe this is going to be good for the homeless who will live there. I don’t think it’s going to be ideal for them, as the support staff proposed is not sufficient to help with the numbers. The citizens of Oak Cliff have to be our own advocates. Once that program is running, we won’t have any say in this.

    And regarding Jake’s comment, Oak Cliff really does need corporate development, and I haven’t met anybody who lives in our hood who thinks otherwise. Thanks for updates, Rachel.

  • Jake

    This is one that tugs us OCers both ways. I think people want to do what’s right for the homeless to help them get back on their feet. On the other hand we have an already precarious climate for investment and a small sneeze can become a full blown case of real estate bubonic plague with the first mention of urban blight in OC. The development of Fort Worth Ave is an uphill climb without the specter of a homeless shelter looming over (figuratively and literally) tepid commitments from developers. Then again, we are supposed to be different from other areas of Dallas. Oak Cliff is supposed to be the area that is unconcerned with corporate development and accepting of all people. I don’t know what the answer is, all I know is that the DHA really screwed up when they decided to forego community education and buy-in for the fast track approach. They only hurt their own residents.

  • Rachel Stone

    Good points, Jason. I think it’s interesting that the mayor said information came up that he didn’t know before the meeting and that he thinks people on both sides are misinformed about some things.
    I think there is some fear and straight-up NIMBY stuff going on here, but I also think there are a lot of good reasons why this might not work in our neighborhood.

  • Jason Wright

    After listening to the homeless advocates last night, many of us are worried about how this will be run. LifeNet is going to provide the support services to the the “tenants.” The president of LifeNet said that they will have a Case Manager for every 35 to 40 people. If you know the job of a Case Manager, this is ridiculous. They will have to receive the paperwork on check-in, making sure everything is in order. They will be the facilitators between clients and the services. Also, Case managers face frequent crises—fights, suicide threats, health inspectors, cops, and paramedics. If there’s a problem, they have to help with it and document everything. I’m not doing service to all the duties of a Case Manager, but it’s clear that they are not planning for enough support staff.

    Many homeless advocates have the statistics to show that smaller facilities do a better job. Cliff Manor will have up to 100 individuals, and they will have a maximum of 3 Case Managers. This is hardly a place where the people will have a lot of individual attention. With an overworked staff, it is very common that people become indifferent. That’s a huge worry of many us who will have to deal with the aftermath of this facility.

    Without providing the dedicated support staff that the chronically homeless need to break this cycle, this is a stop gap measure. The Bridge is obviously overcrowded, and the city needs to place these people elsewhere. We understand that. However, we have to live with the people they are sending over, and we have to still try to entice new business to come in and move next to a big box permanent supportive housing facility for the homeless. That’s not easy an easy task.