In the last two years the number of homeless families with children in Tarrant County grew by about 9 percent, a trend that clearly amplifies the need for a planned $8.2 million four-story facility at Union Gospel Mission.
The mission’s women and children’s shelter turns away about 200 women a month, and current arrangements for two-parent families mandate that men have to sleep in facilities separated from their wives and children.
The new Scott Walker Women and Families Services Building, planned for completion next fall, will have more space for single women and single women with children, and rooms where husbands and wives can stay together with their children.
It all sounded like a great idea when Union Gospel officials announced the plan last summer, and it still is.
Yet when the mission went before the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday for what normally would have been a routine site plan amendment for the proposed building, it ran into opposition from those concerned about the impact of too many homeless facilities on the near east side of town.
Some east-side residents and District 8 Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray used the need for a site plan amendment — because the original site plan in 2000 was for a one-story building — to try to kill the project.
They argued that all of Fort Worth’s homeless shelters are located on the east side in District 8, whereas homelessness is a citywide and countywide problem.
In addition, the opponents insisted that the concentration of homeless programs in the area hampers development and lowers property values.
While the concerns of residents about the oft-raised charges that the east side bears more of an economic burden than the west side is understandable, it is a fact that the city, county and federal governments are heavily invested in those homeless programs along the East Lancaster Avenue corridor.
It also is a fact that the concentration of services in one area is a better way to serve the most people.
The solution is not to begin dispersing homeless facilities throughout the city, but to continue working to move people out of homelessness and find them permanent housing in various communities.
The council ultimately did the right thing Tuesday and approved the site plan change.
Now let’s move forward to get the facility built. Let’s continue to work on a homeless plan that’s best for the city as a whole but also best for those who are on the street without a place to stay.