On Wednesday, the cities of Tulsa and Dallas both held hearings on proposed permanent supportive housing units for the homeless. And in both cities, residents with a serious case of "not in my backyard" syndrome worked themselves into a frenzy protesting them.
In Dallas, residents are furious about a plan to open 100 apartments in the Oak Cliff community to homeless individuals, mainly women and the elderly. At a Dallas City Council meeting on Wednesday, people railed about the formerly homeless coming and going "after hours" and "hanging around." (After hours? Hanging around? That's what homes and neighborhoods are for!) One local woman said her neighborhood already "has more than its share of subsidized housing."
"We do not appreciate being the dumping ground for the city of Dallas' homeless problem. Find another direction," one man told the City Council. It makes sense that people like him who don't care for their fellow human beings also wouldn't care about whether residents in other parts of the city would be similarly angry over the plan. Of course, inherent in NIMBYism is the only alternative: put the problem in someone else's backyard.
Unfortunately, the problem isn't just with local residents. City Councilman Jerry Allen stupidly said, "We've only got 5,500-plus homeless in the city of Dallas. That sounds like a lot [but given Dallas' population] that's not very many homeless." Thanks to brilliant leadership like that, the plan is set for more hearings and no move-in date has been set for the needy would-be tenants.
At the same time, practically the same arguments were going on in Tulsa, where there are plans to construct a $6 million, 60-unit apartment complex to be run by the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless in the White City neighborhood.
As in Dallas, residents complained that they were accommodating enough people. "We already have one in our neighborhood, and we're fine with it. We don't need another one," one man said.
As if that weren't enough, the resident added, "We have children. I'm not saying it's going to be unsafe, but it only takes one kid molested, beat up, robbed or killed, and then where are we?"
The residents concerned about these permanent supportive housing units are obviously afraid — and ignorant as to who permanent supportive housing is for and what it does. Research shows that providing housing actually saves communities in the long run by reducing expenditures for shelters, medical care and incarceration. It doesn't even have a negative impact on property values. Local organizers need some better PR.
I don't want anyone to be afraid, but it would be nice if, rather than getting all worked up about the effort to house the homeless, these people recognized how terrifying homelessness is.
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