At a Dallas Independent School District board meeting last week, Oak Cliff residents spoke out against a proposed facility for the homeless in their neighborhood. The facility would be located at an old hospital directly across the street from an elementary school.
In January, the Dallas City Council voted during a closed executive session to purchase the former University General Hospital for $6.5 million. The hospital, vacant since 2014, is located at 2929 South Hampton Rd. across the street from the Jimmie Tyler Brashear Elementary School, the Hampton-Illinois Branch Library, and Kiest Park.
The Real Deal, a real estate news publication, reported that before the vote to purchase the building, city council members said the hospital conversion would not produce a “homeless shelter,” describing their plan for it as a “resource center.” The proposal includes using the building’s medical facilities to offer healthcare services to the local community.
Councilman Casey Thomas, who represents the district where the structure is located, has previously been emphatic in his point that the building will not be a homeless shelter.
“The only thing that’s happened is the City has purchased the site using bond funds for homeless services, not a homeless shelter,” Thomas said in October. “Let me say that again: there will not be a homeless shelter.”
However, he stated that homeless people would be housed in the building. According to the City’s proposal, the property will be developed for “affordable and supportive housing” as well as homeless and medical services.
“There’s a vetting process for anyone who will be considered to live there,” Thomas said, explaining the City has assembled a work group to determine the building’s residents. “Once they have a place to stay, they’re no longer homeless. That will be their home.”
Despite such assurances from the city council, not all local residents are on board with the proposal. Christina Bristow and Eva Rodriguez, members of the community workgroup formed to advise the City about the project, spoke out at the open comment session of the school board because they feel they have been ignored by the city council.
Rodriguez told The Dallas Express that a majority of the school and surrounding neighborhood is Hispanic, yet the council members did not consider their concerns and did not provide translation during meetings on the subject. “The Hispanic community was not involved in the process,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez is concerned about the uncertainty of what a ‘homeless shelter’ could bring to their community. “We don’t know if the people they’re bringing here [may] have drug addictions or mental illness.”
Bristow told The Dallas Express that they were trying to convince the City of Dallas not to open the ‘shelter’ before it closed the deal.
“We’re on the workforce group. And we’ve been opposed to this from Day 1,” she said. “These parents and teachers deserve a peaceful and quiet place.”