At the last Homeless Commission meeting Mayor Mike Rawlings gave a troubling address. He compared the current state of homelessness in Dallas to a model of the chaos theory.
We have not been planful in the last few years…We have not met goals…Apartment access has started to dry up…Affordable housing is a challenge…We have vouchers that are unused…We are leaving millions on the table…We have worked separately hard…We have been disorganized…
I agree with all of that. But what I don’t understand is why then, would some want to take the same people who have contributed to this chaos theory, and give them more influence, more money, and more authority to continue to lead us in the same chaotic direction? If what our Honorable Mayor said is true (and I believe it is) we need a new direction, new leadership. The thought of creating a permanent homeless commission with the same leaders who have left millions on the table, misplaced other millions, have not been planful, have not met goals, and have been so disorganized – is politics as usual – which is so disappointing.
We need new leadership. We need to remove any conflicts of interest, nepotism, and inside deals. At the last housing committee meeting, a member of the city attorney’s office said that the city’s conflict of interest policy would apply to any permanent commission. Any person with a financial interest must recuse themselves from any discussion or voting on funding. This means that 90% of the homeless commission would not qualify to be on a permanent commission. Based on the disorganization of the past 15 years, those that get public funding need more accountability – not more power. They need to compete for funding, show proof of their success. They need to publicly acknowledge failure and learn from it. Any person serving on a board or staff position of any nonprofit that gets public funding should be immediately disqualified from making decisions that benefit themselves. We need an impartial citizens commission.
Just like the office of Mayor and the City Council, we need citizens to fill a permanent homeless commission. They need to rely on experts, listen to them, visit their facilities – but not be directly connected to any organization receiving public funding. Some argue that citizens aren’t qualified, but that comes from the same organizations who have the most to financially benefit. To state that citizen aren’t qualified is a slap to every newly elected official in the city.
Dallas has a history of ugly politics, missing money, and shady deals. Too many people who work in city hall and various commissions have found themselves in a court room for similar conflicting activity. It’s time we do things ethically, with integrity, and without conflicts of interest.
But more importantly, it’s time that organizations that get public funding be held accountable to an outside commission. Many of them are doing great work, but some have a history of waste, mismanagement, and systemic failures. I personally work with the homeless every day, and the 8,500 homeless people that our organization has served experience these failures firsthand.
Our housing system is failing. Our mental healthcare is failing. Our services and shelters lack adequate capacity. The majority of the people who experience homelessness every year are either camping under our bridges or dying on our streets. More homeless encampments exist today than have ever existed in the history of our city. Our poverty rate is skyrocketing out of control. The current leadership needs a new layer of accountability led by impartiality. We need a permanent homeless commission made up of citizens.
Pastor Wayne Walker
Executive Director, OurCalling