In December 2020, the City of Dallas used federal CARE Act funds to purchase a number of “problem” hotels throughout the city. The funds were required to be used for housing for homeless individuals impacted by COVID-19 – failure to use the funds would mean that the funds would go back to Washington DC for likely disbursement to other cities. The City saw the opportunity to take the Miramar Hotel, one of our district’s worst drains public safety resources due to the number of 911 calls, and turn it into something better for the community.
After the purchase of the hotel, city staff began helping longer term residents of the Miramar find new homes throughout the city. That process continues. Homeless individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19 are now sequestered in the hotel and then transported back to the Bridge and other shelters after recovery. Long term plans, which are being discussed by staff and a work group composed of neighbors and led by Commissioner Jennifer Snow (a resident of Stevens Park), include selecting a vendor such as VNA or Catholic Charities to run a transitional housing facility and putting a permit process in place so the community continues to have a voice on facility operations well into the future.
As a politician, the easy choice would’ve been to quietly say “no” to staff’s suggestion of purchasing this facility. As a leader, I knew this was the right thing to do. For homeless neighbors, these 75 units will offer a chance for a new life, and for our community, the chance to help others while also transforming a crime-ridden property into something redeeming.
We had a one-time opportunity to take a problem property and turn it into something better with greater community input. There were fears about an unsavory element being present at this property. The hard data tells a different story. 9-1-1 calls have fallen by 50 percent from Jan-Feb 2020 to Jan-Feb 2021. I believe we will continue to reduce crime by having social work staff on site 24/7 as we provide wraparound services.
The City needs 4000+ additional transitional housing units, and all Council districts are being asked to accept a share of the units we need. By being proactive instead of reactive, District 1 had the chance to have more of a say in exactly who this facility houses, such as veterans or senior citizens. Waiting until projects have been identified in other districts would mean less neighborhood direction for this project.
Every person I’ve spoken with agrees that we have to do more for Dallas residents experiencing homelessness. The shelters are full, namely because people don’t have anywhere to go for that next step, the transitional home where they live while they work, save money, and have managed care to help them get back on their feet. DART operates bus service in this area which provides access to the greater DART system, including light rail, to access jobs. Transitional housing is our most sorely needed housing type to bring people out of homelessness permanently.