Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy (un)Homeless Holidays from Phoenix


I have no idea when the systematic racism in Dallas was instituted as policy. It might have been as early as the 19th Century. Like most racist acts, there is no paper trail, although traces can be found here and there.

There are documents revealing that blacks – even as late as the 1950s – were restricted from purchasing homes unless they were in unprotected floodplains such as Rochester Park.

But regardless of how it was done, Dallas was divided between north and south – blacks restricted to a bleak existence south of the city, whites prospering in the northern half. Taking a drive from the southern border of Dallas to the northern one on old Highway 75 was a revelatory experience – the stark contrast between north and south was an ugly boil on the butt of the city.

And to a large extent, that boil remains today.

Which is the major reason Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings launched his "Grow South" campaign. I’m not sure what that is, exactly, what its specific goals are. Take a peak at the City’s Web site and you’ll find nary a mention of "Grow South," so I guess this is some kind of clue as to how seriously the City feels about this concept. From where I sit, it’s nothing more than an attempt to throw a couple of bones to the folks south of I-30, which will do more to appease the collective consciences of the North Siders than to appreciably help the economic conditions in the South.

Besides, at what point in a campaign like this can you declare victory? Or do city officials simply at same moment transform City Hall Plaza into a simulated deck of air aircraft carrier and hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner across the north face of the building?

Contrast this "Grow South" shadow to a program undertaken in Phoenix that had its goal actually stated in its mission statement – to eradicate chronic veteran homelessness.

I’m not going into the whole story of what Phoenix has accomplished because you can see it for yourself right here. The reason I’m bringing this up is because, as this story says, the cities of Salt Lake City, Philadelphia and Washington are following the Phoenix model and are also on the verge of eradicating veteran homelessness.

Dallas, of course, is not mentioned and that’s another reason I feel ashamed for the city in which I reside. This is an idea that works. Not only that, it’s one that is noble – making sure that those who served in the American military to protect us can, at the very least, have a roof over the heads to show our appreciation for their sacrifices on our behalf. And, obviously it is winnable. It is one after which you can stand on the hilltops and declare victory in no uncertain terms. Absolutely no one can dispute that victory.

If I were Mayor Rawlings, who, by the way, was once this city’s "Homeless Czar," I would be preparing to instruct my new incoming city manager to put together a team that could get to Phoenix immediately and return with the roadmap for that’s city success in this ambitious undertaking. Then I would instruct city staff find a way to overlay that map on the City of Dallas and set a date for when this city, too, will finally do something honorable for a segment of its population by ending chronic veteran homelessness.

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