Will the Town Center ever actually start to take on the appearance of a town center, rather than that of a neighborhood recently wiped clean by an efficient tornado, with neatly paved streets and sidewalks to nowhere?
We had better hope so — for more reasons than we think. The longer it sits vacant, the more fearful I am that its future use will become something less than our highest aspirations.
Yes, that’s right, fellow Lake Highlanders! Clearing out five apartment complexes (leaving only 9,231 more apartment complexes in our community) for that someday Town Center might end up being only a short-lived step in the direction of regaining some sense of proportion regarding the concentration of multi-family housing in Lake Highlands relative to the rest of the City of Dallas. That’s because the Dallas Housing Authority recently announced that Lake Highlands is one of only a few “lucky” communities in the city scheduled to play host to “chronically homeless” and “formerly incarcerated” individuals that DHA is trying to park somewhere.
And with whom does Lake Highlands share this dubious honor? Well, there’s the No. 1 crime location in the city — Vickery Meadow; another high crime location in far East Dallas on Ferguson Road; and a location in Plano (how did they get dragged into this?). The two apartment complexes to be used in Lake Highlands are in the Forest/Audelia area, which happens to rank as the No. 2 crime location in the city.
I’m sure that some ivory-tower thinker has this all figured out, but does anyone else wonder how dropping “chronically homeless” and “formerly incarcerated” people into the top crime locations in the city is likely to help them in their journey to rehabilitation? Are we trying to rehabilitate them, or just make them better at being bad?
To add insult to ignorance, the DHA apparently thought that publishing a notice of this announcement in the very well-read “public notice” section of the not so well-read Dallas Morning News represented sufficient “dialogue” with the affected communities. A DHA spokesman commented that the notice was published, as required, to inform the public of the plans, saying: “We’ve not done anything different from prior approaches we’ve taken historically.”
Well, if you’re simply following your past practice of not talking to neighborhoods before dumping “chronically homeless” and “formerly incarcerated” people into their communities, then I don’t know why in the world we should have any misgivings or concerns — why didn’t you just say so? Judging from the advocatemag.com blog activity on this topic, however, Lake Highlanders appear to be interested in having just a tad more dialogue.
As one commenter observed: “It’s ironic that the federal government takes our tax money to house people in our neighborhoods without our consent.”
Well, yes — and that’s just one example of what has become an endless list of “ironic” uses of our tax money by our government to do things to us and against us that would have our founding fathers fully convinced that we have clearly “losted” what they founded. And they are using our tax money here to forcibly relocate not just any people — but “chronically homeless” and “formerly incarcerated” people. It’s also ironic that the ivory towers where liberal thinkers reside never seem to make it onto the DHA’s list of preferred locations.
So, as this story unfolds, and a convoy of “chronically homeless” and “formerly incarcerated” folks head to Lake Highlands, I can’t help but wonder:
1) Will this be the first wave of endless waves to come in a program that we won’t be able to resist because “we already are home to others who have come before, so what’s the big deal?” In fact, when asked his opinion, Dallas City Councilman Jerry Allen used that very analogy, and conceded that trying to stop DHA at this point would be like going to the ocean and trying to stop the waves from splashing on the shore.
2) How will this program be monitored and measured to determine if it is having any positive results at all or, more likely, if it is just a way to dump unwanted people on defenseless communities?
And, finally, my real nightmare: the longer that the Town Center sits idle, the more concerned I become that DHA will decide that the property would make a good emergency “tent city” for the “chronically homeless” and “formerly incarcerated”, and then the tent city will be converted into “new” public housing, and our best opportunity to ignite new development in Lake Highlands will have been lost to those folks who are well-intentioned and full of hope and change — and live in ivory towers far from the “chronically homeless” and “formerly incarcerated”.
Editor’s note: As this magazine went to press, the Dallas Housing Authority announced that it would withdraw plans to move formerly incarcerated individuals into 20 units at Woodside Condominiums. For more information, visit advocatemag.com and search: supportive housing.