The nonprofit that used to operate out of a now-vacant City-owned building, which has deteriorated into a nuisance property over the past year, is setting the record straight about its condition to preserve the organization’s name and reputation.

In multiple emails to The Dallas Express, Family Gateway CEO Ellen Magnis insisted that the building the organization once occupied on South St. Paul Street was clean and secure before the organization vacated the property and that the City of Dallas is solely responsible for its deterioration.

The nonprofit also posted an update on its website, stating, “Family Gateway did in fact fully vacate the property in late summer 2023. Family Gateway participated in walk-throughs with the City of Dallas to ensure the building was completely clean prior to turning in the keys. Family Gateway has no responsibility for the activity that transpired after vacating the property or the current state of 711 S. St. Paul.”

Since Family Gateway vacated the property in October, the facility has reportedly been vandalized numerous times. The Dallas Express was the first to report the extent to which the building has deteriorated after Dallas City Council Member Jesse Moreno (District 2) wrote a May 30 memo about the issue to interim City Manager Kimberly Tolbert. Moreno said he was “gravely concerned” about the site’s condition and was looking for answers as to how it had fallen into disrepair.

Moreno’s memo included dozens of images of the facility showing clogged toilets full of human waste, animal feces on floors, broken glass panels, insects, removed ceiling tiles, broken fixtures, empty liquor bottles, food, and trash.

A day later, Tolbert responded with a memo of her own, which was forwarded to DX by Magnis.

“Thank you for sharing your concerns on 711 S. St. Paul facility,” Tolbert wrote. “It is never the type of situation that we want to happen and want to acknowledge the importance of your elevating this to my attention.”

In the memo, Tolbert did not take responsibility for the building’s condition or explain how it fell into such a state of disrepair, focusing instead on what the City has done to resolve the problem. She noted that the Building Services Department (BDS) dispatched technicians to the site on May 24 to perform a visual inspection after receiving reports of unauthorized access to the building.

On May 30, BDS workers, accompanied by Dallas police officers and representatives from the Office of Homeless Solutions, returned to the property, and photos showing the damage were taken. At that time, police removed multiple people and pets found inside the building, and workers made repairs to the gate, secured windows and doors with plywood, and installed additional locks and hasps, per Tolbert’s memo.

Tolbert said the next steps would include daily safety inspections by the Dallas Marshal’s Office to ensure the building remains secured and researching cost-effective ways to further enhance security. However, in her memo, Tolbert did not address Moreno’s requests to clean and sanitize the building, post No Trespassing signage, and remove graffiti.

Magnis told DX that she was contacting the news outlet about the situation because of her organization’s former association with the building.

“This news is getting picked up in multiple places, and I am trying to make sure our good name is not associated with this building’s current state. I appreciate everything you can do here,” she said.

“Within the last couple of weeks, our highly respected name of 38 years has been dragged through the media as reports of the current condition of our former facility [have] come to the attention of the media,” Magnis wrote in another email. “We have so far responded to the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Express, and Fox News to defend our good name.”

“I have asked Interim City Manager Tolbert for a rapid public statement to explain that Family Gateway has absolutely no responsibility for the current state of 711 S. St. Paul and am very confident she will assist us to clear our name, as we have absolutely nothing to do with the current state of our prior home.”

She noted that Family Gateway asked for and received “permission to return to the property to remove our name from the building so as not to be associated with the condition of the property after we returned it to the City.”

In addition to the South St. Paul Street building, Dallas officials are considering selling or redeveloping nine other City-owned properties. The City also owns multiple sites that the Dallas City Council has considered using for transitional or permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, as DX reported.

Polling suggests the majority of Dallas residents believe City officials are doing a poor job of “keeping crime low; addressing homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling; [and] keeping public spaces clean.”

More specifically, roughly 75% of Dallas residents think homelessness, vagrancy, and aggressive panhandling are “major” problems in the city. Respondents also appeared to generally support the “one-stop-shop” homeless services model utilized by Haven for Hope in San Antonio. The model has been credited with a 77% reduction in unsheltered homelessness in the city’s downtown neighborhood.

Some local stakeholders want to try the model out in Dallas. However, it is unclear whether City officials will support such an initiative.