Homeless Partnership To Rework Its Structure

Homeless person | Image by Ground Picture

A local government group intended to maintain accountability across Dallas’ homeless response system is currently focused on reorganizing to account for “contradictions” in its governing documents.

The Dallas Area Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness (DAPEH) discussed the process of amending its structure during its meeting on Thursday.

Assistant City Attorney Stephen McFayden said any amendments to the DAPEH’s articles of incorporation must be approved by both the Dallas City Council and the Dallas County Commissioners Court before being adopted.

DAPEH functions as a partnership between Dallas County and the City of Dallas and aims to maintain “system accountability” in local homelessness response initiatives. City Council Member Cara Mendelsohn currently serves as chair of the partnership, while County Commissioner Theresa Daniel serves as vice chair.

“The largest process that’s going to happen here is the discussion about the actual changes that you all want to make as a board to the articles of incorporation,” said McFayden. “The largest change … is to actually make sure that we have a rotation of the chair and vice chair position, actually putting dates and what the actual term for the chair and vice chair are. There may be some other changes that you wish to make.”

In a statement to The Dallas Express, Mendelsohn said the DAPEH has been discussing amending its articles since before she was appointed in May.

“There are contradictory statements in [the articles] about the terms,” she said, noting there are “inconsistencies” with the way the DAPEH operates in practice compared to what is laid out in its founding documents, especially in regard to the chair and vice chair positions.

“The Bylaws and the Articles envision these positions being appointed in September and October, but actually I was appointed in May,” she explained. “It isn’t actually working the way our governments function. All that alignment needs to happen.”

Mendelsohn said achieving that alignment through the process of updating the articles is estimated to take at least six months. To start, she recommended that all DAPEH members read through the articles and recommend any ideas they may have for changes or amendments. The chairwoman added that while some ideas from different members of the DAPEH may be very different, the partnership will bring all the ideas together and “have a fair conversation about how we move forward.”

“It seems like there is some consensus about what this should look like,” she observed.

Vice Chair Daniel, who is also a Dallas County commissioner and served as chair of the DAPEH before Mendelsohn assumed the position, said the articles do not currently include “clear language” about the length of the term for the chair position.

McFayden said “aligning” and “defining” the term of the chair is one of the key objectives of the amendment process moving forward.

Mendelsohn also expressed that private organizations with representatives on the DAPEH would rather not have term limits in order to allow their CEO to “maintain their position because they’re probably the most knowledgeable person and the right person to serve.”

She said this process will continue to be discussed at several future DAPEH meetings.

Mendelsohn told The Dallas Express that the updates to the DAPEH’s articles of incorporation are largely “insider politics” and are unlikely to have larger effects on homelessness response efforts throughout Dallas. Still, the partnership has dedicated considerable time to ironing out this bureaucratic aspect of its organization.

Meanwhile, the majority of Dallas residents say they are frustrated with homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling in their neighborhoods and throughout the city, according to polling from The Dallas Express.

Haven for Hope has been successful in San Antonio with its “one-stop-shop” model for homeless services — providing transitional housing along with services like counseling and job training on the same campus.

The approach has been credited with a 77% reduction in homelessness in San Antonio and has polled favorably among Dallas residents.

Mayor Eric Johnson even visited Haven for Hope in August; however, it remains to be seen whether the City of Dallas will try out a similar model.

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