Spoke to Jerry Allen recently about the Dallas Housing Authority’s decision to place about 70 recently incarcerated and chronically homeless people in Lake Highlands area apartment communities — 20 units for formerly incarcerated at Woodside Condominiums at 9302 Forest and 50 units for the formerly homeless at Trinity Palms at 9690 Forest . A few of the things I learned:

How it got to this point—the federal government gives the Dallas Housing Authority funds for housing programs in Dallas. The DHA goes through a bid process by which existing multi-family dwellings are selected for the supportive housing programs. Then DHA must announce the winners of the bid. The DHA historically hasn’t kept city government abreast of developments until they are obligated to make a public announcement (this was printed in a public announcement in the Morning News last week). Allen didn’t know about the programs in his district until a reporter from the News called him for a comment.

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Trying to stop this at this point is like going to the ocean and trying to stop the waves from splashing on the shore, Allen analogizes. What I can do, says Allen, “is sit at the table with these folks and see how we can work together to keep them accountable.”

The formerly incarcerated people moving into the Woodside Condominiums on Forest are at a certain point in their rehabilitation that qualifies them for permanent housing assistance. They are non-violent criminals. If they had not shown a valid willingness and effort to change, they would not be eligible for these subsidies, says Allen, who adds that he does have some concerns about the placement, for instance that the housing is located near a school. A reduction in the amount of people moving into the supportive housing situation at Trinity Palms and Woodside Condominiums is a possibility that he will explore, he says.

Consider this—with the permanent supportive housing, parolees will be monitored and assisted 40 hours per week by a social worker in the Woodside community, Allen says. Think about many of our apartment complexes in Lake Highlands. Many have absentee landlords who will allow anyone with $200 to move in, which is the worst-case scenario, the councilman says, because there is not a person to hold responsible. Good apartments won’t allow convicted criminals in at all, so convicted criminals flock to the apartments owned by landlords that don’t care. Here, unsupervised, they are more likely to fall back into drug abuse, criminal behavior and the like. The key to the supportive housing is that it provides a mentor/ social worker to the residents, Allen says. Here, unlike apartment complexes with absentee landlords, there will be someone who is accountable for what happens.

Steve Blow’s columns following the Lake Highlands Area Improvement Association’s fight against proposed homes for the homeless in 2007 gave Lake Highlands the reputation of being unsympathetic to the plight of Dallas’ homeless population, Allen notes. Before “beating our breasts” and declaring war, why don’t we educate ourselves, listen and then decide on appropriate worthwhile action?

Pebbles apartments in Vickery Meadow (Northwest Highway east of Central) houses formerly incarcerated women through the DHA. They haven’t had trouble there, say leaders of the Vickery Meadow Improvement District. The News wrote a story last January about the women there.

I will continue to follow developments and I appreciate your feedback.