City Homeless Project Raises More Concerns

Hotel Miramar
Hotel Miramar | Image by Noah DeGarmo/The Dallas Express

Dallas City Council members are growing frustrated with the lack of progress made on a City-owned property intended to be used for a homeless services project.

The City of Dallas purchased the former Hotel Miramar in North Oak Cliff for $3.5 million three years ago, but the redevelopment has yet to be completed, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Council members raised concerns about the stagnant project during Monday’s meeting of the Housing & Homelessness Solutions Committee following an update by City staff.

Council Member Chad West, who represents District 1, where the project is located, said every time the project comes up, it “generates an emotional response” among his constituents, including people on both sides of the issue.

The staff presentation was delivered by Christine Crossley, director of the Office of Homeless Solutions, and Darwin Wade, assistant director of the Department of Housing & Neighborhood Revitalization.

West told them he was “really disappointed in the project delays, the cost, [and] the lack of an operator partner.”

“I’m concerned that after having purchased this property three years ago, there’s a lot of uncertainty that remains as to the renovation duration and the cost, and the cost of securing an operating partner. … My neighbors who live near the Miramar … share their disappointment and concern and they deserve better,” he said.

West asked staff to develop a “revised plan to address these concerns, including a complete project plan that addresses not only renovation but also timing and funding for operator selection, rental subsidies, and tenant supportive services.”

“My disappointment and concerns extend to the other three properties that have been purchased for conversion to homelessness, supportive housing, and shelter,” West added.

The other three properties purchased by the City for homeless services purposes include the former Candlewood Suites in District 12, a former hospital on Hampton Road, and a former hotel on Independence Drive.

The former Candlewood Suites, which the City bought for $6 million, is currently being used as a homeless services facility. Family Gateway is managing it. However, West claimed mismanagement led to the City spending an additional $1 million on the project.

The property on Independence Drive opened its first phase in June but has yet to open at full capacity, and the former hospital on Hampton Road remains in limbo after an outcry from residents and alleged poor communication on the part of City officials, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

West asked City staff to “reexamine” the project management of the properties and said the City should refrain from purchasing any more properties until its approach to handling the current projects has been reevaluated.

Council Member Cara Mendelsohn, who represents District 12, affirmed West’s comments and said she is particularly concerned about the time staff estimate it will take for the latest facility to be up and running, considering the “urgency of having housing” amid the ongoing homelessness crisis in Dallas.

More than 80% of residents are unhappy with homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling in Dallas, according to polling by The Dallas Express.

Crossley said the facility will start housing people in September 2024, according to current estimates.

“The timeline of this is just pretty outrageous,” Mendelsohn said, later adding, “We’ve sat with a building for essentially three years. It’s vacant, and it’s not the only one. … I just think it’s unconscionable.”

Mendelsohn raised concerns about such projects at a prior meeting after Crossley put forth a plan for the City to fund yet another homeless services project.

Council Member Jesse Moreno (District 2), chair of the committee, agreed with the concerns raised by West and Mendelsohn. He said he thinks staff are aware that “we should be doing things differently.”

While the City is currently responding to the homelessness crisis by attempting to establish homelessness response facilities in several locations across Dallas, a reported 77% decrease in homelessness in San Antonio has been credited to the nonprofit Haven for Hope, which serves as a “one-stop-shop” for homeless services.

Haven for Hope offers supportive services, such as counseling, rehab, and job training, on the same campus as transitional housing. This model has polled favorably among Dallas residents.

In August, Mayor Eric Johnson visited Haven for Hope’s 22-acre campus in San Antonio, but it remains to be seen whether the City of Dallas will pursue a similar “one-stop-shop” strategy.

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