Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia represents Dallas County in groundbreaking partnership to combat homelessness!
November 17, 2011
By: Maria Arita, PIO/Community Liaison, Dallas County
[Dallas, TX] – [Commissioner Elba Garcia joined representatives from across the area recently to announce the formation of the Greater Dallas Homeless Policy Alliance. The partnership with Dallas County, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) and the City of Dallas is a big step towards a regional solution to addressing chronic homelessness. Commissioner Garcia represents Dallas County and the Commissioners Court on the board of the newly created organization. County Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas Co. Director of Health and Human Services Zachary Thompson, and Dallas Co. Director of Criminal Justice Ron Stretcher, were also on hand at the press conference to demonstrate Dallas County’s support for this effort.]
The MDHA introduced the initiative during a press conference at the Flag Room at City Hall amid a groundswell of support from various elected officials and business leaders across the region. Members of the alliance are Commissioner Garcia, Dallas City Councilmember Jerry Allen, Dallas County Criminal District Court #4 Judge John Creuzot, Dallas Housing Authority CEO Mary Ann Russ and George Ellis, Chairman of the Board for MDHA. Mike Faenza, CEO of MDHA, provides the staff support. Commissioner Garcia is the only County representative on the new board of the Greater Dallas Homeless Policy Alliance; she worked with MDHA and Councilmember Allen, among others, to create this coalition and was appropriately exuberant about the Commission and the great benefits the region will gain as a result of its formation.
Commissioner Elba Garcia took the stage after Mayor Mike Rawlings bestowed kudos upon the foot soldiers in the region who have worked to combat homelessness and directly after GDHPA City Council member Jerry Allen gave his remarks.
The Commissioner began by recognizing County officials who she said have fought the good fight within their own departments, such as Zachary Thompson and Ron Stretcher. As head of Health and Human Services, Thompson works tirelessly in the provision of health services and community outreach in Dallas County at large but particularly to the indigent. He has seen the economic impact this year for this population of people and says we can do better: “Homelessness impacts the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex. The regional homeless policy alliance will be a forward thinking model for how private and public partnerships work to reduce homelessness in this community.” Ron Stretcher, director of criminal justice for Dallas County, has lead efforts to better coordinate behavioral health services for high-need populations including those with criminal justice system involvement and those who are homeless. Stretcher said: "National and local data support stable housing as significantly reducing the cost of providing care in public systems, as well as improving outcomes for consumers. The goals of the policy alliance make sense economically in addition to being the right thing for our community."
Garcia continued by describing the homeless challenges we face and how the coalition is working to engender support and long-term results “The Greater Dallas Homeless Policy Alliance is a ground breaking partnership that will bring city and county elected officials together to work toward a regional solution to chronic homelessness, and I am proud to be a part of this effort … A large percentage of the homeless have some sort of mental health issues, and it costs far more to treat them when they do not have stable housing. Currently we have 2,000 supportive housing units in the area. By increasing that number, we will not only be able to reach more of the homeless population that need mental health treatment, but we will save the taxpayers money by providing that treatment more efficiently.”
The MDHA has released a 2011 “State of Homelessness” report highlighting the urgent need for more permanent supportive housing. Judge Jenkins echoes that and emphasizes the need for more partnerships like this between cities and public and private entities, “The recession has touched us all and has had a devastating impact upon households across the region, bringing our homeless numbers to an all-time high. This problem must be addressed at its core by providing foundational services such as mental health and counseling as well as permanent housing. I am so proud of Commissioner Garcia for her important work on this groundbreaking initiative. I'm also proud of everyone on the Dallas County team working to end homelessness. The work they are doing will have a significant impact for generations to come.”
Officials at the MDHA agree and its reporting confirms that even though they have been integral in the provision of support services for the homeless since 2008, economic conditions have forced hundreds of people into homelessness this year. MDHA’s goal is to provide 1,800 additional permanent housing units for the chronically homeless by 2015. MDHA board chairman George Ellis said “Our goal is 1,800 more units and we have no doubt we can reach it and even better by 2015 … with the right kind of support the sky’s the limit.”