Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, The Bridge Explain Their Separation to City Council

Categories: City Hall
mikefaenza_bridge.jpg
Photo by Mark Graham
DHA's Mike Faenza at The Bridge
On Friday, in a briefing sent to the city council, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and the downtown homeless shelter The Bridge announced they would be separating their leadership, something that became effective Saturday. The Bridge is now its own separate non-profit and will be a member of the MDHA, not one of its a satellite programs. John Castle, now the chairman of The Bridge, assured the city council's Housing Committee moments ago committee that it's not an angry breakup by any means.

"At some point in time, as The Bridge matured and got its feet on the ground, it would become its own organization," he said. "That had always been in the planning. We have two organizations here with separate missions. We began thinking more seriously: Is now the time to separate these two organizations?"

Castle said the two nonprofits felt increasingly "inhibited" by each other. "MDHA has 60 or 70 service providers," he said. "The Bridge felt somewhat constrained about competing with service providers. ... Being a separate organization, we don't have that kind of inhibition." The Bridge, he said, will also increase its efforts to find "other sources of earned income," including looking at receiving funding from the federal government, something they don't currently do.

MDHA, he said, had also been "has been somewhat overwhelmed" by The Bridge, which "takes up a good bit" of its time.

"It was perceived as the most-favored child by some of the [other MDHA] members. That perception will go away when the two become separate," he explained. The new goal, he said, is for MDHA to be able to come a more policy and data-driven organization with "a more systemic view of the issues of homelessness," without being "inhibited by the large operation of The Bridge."

"I think MDHA will serve a tremendous purpose," he assured the committee.

Mike Faenza, now CEO of MDHA, concurred. He praised the city council for the time and energy they've invested into combating homelessness, saying, "You've been very patient with the nonprofit organization MDHA as we've learned, and developed The Bridge and other programs. I think we have a lot to be proud of." He added that MDHA's staff and board are "very proud" of their work helping to "incubate" The Bridge.

"I've been working in this field close to 40 years, and I have some ownership and investment in The Bridge," he said. "But I've But I've never seen an operation in health and human services go the extra mile like The Bridge does. ... [The Bridge President and CEO] Jay Dunn and his team, there's really something extraordinary that happens there."

In the future, Faenza said, MDHA will be more focused advocacy, like encouraging city and county leadership, as well as district judges, to support more permanent supportive housing developments for the chronically homeless. They also want city and county officials to work on affordable housing issues, he said: "Without a serious movement on affordable housing, we allow a major factor in homelessness to be unaddressed."

At the same time, he said, "we want the city to be much more cognizant and invested in what public mental health system does, for example, because it has a great impact on your leadership and your investments in housing. ... Most people in permanent supportive housing are clients of that public mental health system."

Jay Dunn said the shelter will continue focusing on providing emergency care and transitional housing services. "There are about 1,500 adults experiencing homeless in Dallas's emergency shelters every day and night," he said. "We serve 1,200 of that group regularly. That being said, we've got a couple hundred we'd like to better connect to." Part of the issue, he explained, is that "other emergency shelters close during the day. Without us, [the homeless] don't have a place to go. That's not quite as well understood as it should be."

Indirectly addressing criticism from groups such as the Farmers Market stakeholders, who aren't fans of the shelter, Dunn added that The Bridge has "helped reduce crime downtown. We were a vacant lot prior to our operation, and crime has gone down. Healthcare costs are also 24 percent less for our graduates."

But they need to partner better with entities such as the Parks Department, he said, to address things like the hubbub this summer over homeless people in Main Street Garden. "We want to transition from a break-fix conversation into something more long-term," he said. "We want to get ahead of those things as best we can."

"We want to make sure we're increasingly becoming a well-understood resource for downtown," Dunn told the committee, "Not just an inflow reception area, but an organization that's proactive in partnering with other organizations to improve downtown Dallas."
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FM Stakeholder
FM Stakeholder

MDHA and The Bridge management should be ashamed of themselves.  The reason why they want to split off is dollar signs $$$.  How much money does management at MDHA and The Bridge actually receive in their pocketbooks vs. amount going to help the homeless and needy?  Several of the social services companies employed by The Bridge list Mike Faenza as their registered agent and are connected to MDHA. I would like to know how much salary management is making off all these entities? The DMN did an article recently talking about executives at Non Profits and how much they actually made.  This is another one of those examples. Why else would management allow a facility to become so crime ridden and flip off the neighborhors who are trying to improve the safety situation? The Bridge is a halfway house for criminals and pedophiles with no background checks or id required. How does this help the needy who are afraid to go to The Bridge? Mike Fanza admits himself that less then 1/3 of their clients participate in ANY programs. Yet, they are moving people into transitional housing run by MDHA management? Where is the accountability?As for Jay Dunn's comments about crime being down.  The Bridge spent $1.1M in 2009 for safety to Dallas CBD Enterprises, this is over and above in house security expense. The City Farmers Market has a budget of $350,000 for security (entrance faces The Bridge) and DPD, 911, EMT, etc are called through out the day for emergency response. Which is not covered in the expense, but is paid for by the city taxpayers. Between January 1, 2010 - August 1, 2010 there were 733 YTD 911 calls at The Bridge address. The #2 response location in Central Business District. Does this not send a red flag that there is a problem?

Not a Fan
Not a Fan

The Bridge is a place where anyone can go to get a free meal and refuge from police and/or anyone they wish to get away from.   The Bridge/MDHA is having trouble getting their guests to participate in "behavioral health" rehabilitation to be eligible for transitional housing.  In an email that I found online dated March 25, 2011 from Mike Faenza to Mary Russ & Jay Dunn, Mr. Faenza states that "behavioral health participation has decreased, in recent months: less than 1/3 of Bridge patients routinely participate in recovery oriented behavioral health services."  Less than 30% is not a success rate and I would like to know what their stats are now.  Did you know that if they do participate somewhat - they get a big fat check at the end of the month.  Crime is not down and The Bridge and their guests are not improving the area.  I would like a list of the improvements that The Bridge has done to improve Dallas.  Drug rings are rampant in the facility and our tax dollars are paying for illegal dealings.  

snookie
snookie

all this gobbledy goop sounds like more layers of admin - getting paid WAY too much money for "non-profit".

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

Hobos are big business ! Personally Im anti-hobo but why not throw some money at the problem that usually fixes things. Hobo Wino etc why not call these people what they really are?  

Mark
Mark

The title "non-profit" has always grated on me, the word is thrown around a lot in the recovery field in which I work. It really just allows businesses to accept donations and not pay taxes. Yet most non-profits use it as a way to rise above, we're not doing this for the money, we're non-profit. However, non-profit just means that the business does not show a profit at the end of the year, meaning that they have to spend all the money, which usually means it goes in their pockets. 

Take a look at what non-profits are raking in at:http://www.eri-nonprofit-salar...

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