After a Tough Year Finding Homes for the Homeless, Faenza Says MDHA's Closing Strong

Categories: City Hall, News
MikeFaenza_MDHALunch.jpg
Patrick Michels
MDHA's Mike Faenza
As the Dallas City Council wraps up its last meeting of the year, they'll consider adjusting the city's Permanent Supportive Housing Program -- to keep the council notified when new proposals come in and to "encourage developers and applicants to brief key neighborhood and community groups." In other words, to avoid another debacle like Cliff Manor.

There's also this: a proposal to eliminate any target number for PSH units in the city -- the 700-unit goal that Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance president Mike Faenza is fond of bringing up in discussions about his five-year plan for putting Dallas's homeless into homes.

Over the phone this morning, Faenza says that while he hadn't been aware of that last point, the target's going to be moot in a few weeks anyway, when that five-year plan ends with MDHA lining up with more than 700 PSH units around the city -- it amounts to "taking a goal off the books that's already been surpassed," he says. Next month, he'll get to work on a new housing plan, probably just three years this time, but for now, Faenza says, "there is no new goal."

Dave Neumann may not feel quite so sanguine today about the fallout from the Cliff Manor debacle, but Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance president Mike Faenza is upbeat about creating more room in the city for permanent supportive housing. "We weathered that storm really well," Faenza says. "Cliff Manor really settled down, everybody really learned something. Although it was painful, the pain was worth it."

In all, though, Faenza says he expects to blow past the city's five-year target by the end of the year -- despite the Dallas Housing Authority's blanket denial of PSH applications from eight landlords across the city last week, which he says would have added 250 new units to the mix.

Faenza says he's still counting those units in his total because he fully expects them to be approved once landlords reapply with DHA before the end of this month. "The way the proposals were written, DHA was not going to approve some of those units," Faenza says. "The strategy was to quickly pull together the applicants for the proposals, explain how the proposals can improve, what the issues were, then DHA issues another [request for proposal] quickly."

The applications were vague about crime in the area, he says, and the type of support for physical and mental disabilities that each landlord was offering to provide. By the end of the year, DHA will have a look at each landlord's new answers. "DHA really wants those vouchers to be used well," he says.

Though MDHA's partnered with the Dallas Housing Authority this year, it was up to the two of them to share the love -- or the opposite of that -- for lining up apartments for the formerly homeless. Their unusual arrangement this year, which fast-tracked homeless folks headed to permanent supportive housing for DHA vouchers, has been plenty contentious among people complaining that the other 27,000-some people on DHA's waiting list are getting the shaft.

Faenza says he sold the partnership to the DHA board with the promise that plenty of people with DHA vouchers have the same physical and mental issues as the formerly homeless headed to PSH. By giving a priority to PSH units, he says, they're helping to meet the needs of other DHA voucher recipients around the city who otherwise wouldn't be served. "One of the things that comes with this partnership is a service provider on-site, and my goal is that those service providers also become aware and link services with others who need them."

Anyway, this time around, he says the goal is to open the PSH process up to a bigger coalition. "We're going to convene Dallas County and the regional mental health system, the housing authority and the city to jointly develop a plan," he says. The next permanent supportive housing plan will be "a lot more sophisticated than the last one in terms of data and strategy," Faenza says. "We're going to do it right, with broader involvement from government authorities."
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