It is great that 50 otherwise homeless people will have a roof over their heads, but city officials have dug themselves a deep hole in Oak Cliff with their decision to move forward with plans for Cliff Manor. The original plan from the Dallas Housing Authority was to move 100 chronically homeless people, who either have mental illness or past drug addiction, into the Cliff Manor Apartments on Fort Worth Avenue, just as revitalization efforts there are gaining steam.
A “task force” selected by Council member David Neumann met with the housing authority and city officials this week. And the city decided to change the proposal to allow not 100 but only 50 people to move from The Brigde to permanent supportive housing at Cliff Manor.
This dispute is less about whether we want to give homeless people refuge in our neighborhood and more about communication. Neighbors felt blindsided by the proposal. The city broke no open meetings rules. But no one, including Neumann, went out of their way to notify neighbors about what was going on. So unless you keep up with obscure meeting agendas, you wouldn’t have known until it was all but decided.
At a public meeting last month that neared unruly, Mayor Tom Leppert said he was confident that neighbors and the housing authority could come to a conclusion that would satisfy everyone. If neighbors wouldn’t support permanent supportive housing, then it could be destined to fail, he said.
But the modified plan is moving forward despite a lack of support from most residents, and many are madder than swatted hornets.
As Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce president Bob Stimson told the Dallas Morning News: “This is the poster child of how not to work with the community.”
In general, Oak Cliff residents already have a sense of separateness, that City Hall sees our neighborhood as unimportant, a dumping ground for undesirable things, such as 14 percent of the 700 homeless people the city currently needs to house.
Oak Cliff will not forget this. Some day, the housing authority or Mayor Leppert or Neumann, who is up for reelection next year, will want our support. And I predict they will not get it.