photo by Benjamin Hager

Dallas’ Housing Crisis Center provides transitional and permanent housing to people who have been homeless, but the organization’s leaders don’t believe in giving handouts, development director Chelsea White says.

“We operate under the idea that there is a culture of poverty that keeps people in a cycle of debt, living check-to-check and dependent,” she explains.

The HCC aims at the root of the poverty and homeless problem by teaching people like Lorion Horsley to empower themselves.

Horsley, a young mother of three, ages 6, 7 and 9, lives in a sparkling clean, stylishly decorated apartment in Trinity Palms on Forest Lane. Small and dark, yet inviting, her home has fresh fruit on the table and a meticulous horizontal row of framed photos, most featuring Mom and children, on the living room wall. Horsley, who is one of 50 HCC clients placed in supportive housing at Trinity Palms, has struggled with chemical dependency issues and homelessness. She can live here as long as she follows a few rules — stay clean and sober, regularly see a counselor and caseworker to generate long- and short-term goals, and secure employment.

You have to work hard to earn a spot in a program like this, says Horsley, who is attending school at Richland College wile her children are in school at Skyview Elementary. Lake Highlands’ Episcopal Church of the Ascension and Nexus Community recently helped the HCC put on a four-week financial workshop called “Living Wisely” in which supportive housing residents at Trinity Palms learned about healthy financial habits.

“It’s about teaching them how to save and become self-sufficient, and how to avoid pitfalls like ‘payday’ and ‘quick cash’ loans,” White says.

Horsley says her outlook on finances and life has changed a great deal since she started working with HCC.

“They have given me the opportunity to break free from that so-called ‘ghetto poor’ mentality,” she says. “I feel really blessed. My children’s life chances have improved greatly. I think what goes around comes around, and I see that when I do everything I can to make a good life, good things happen. So many people have helped me,” she says, and promises that she’s “not going to cry”.

The “Living Wisely” workshop wrapped up in spring, and participating families were given piggy banks as a reminder to “save now, spend later”, White says. From the heavy weight of Horsley’s bank — the one she has designated for “college funds” — it seems she’s off to a good start.