Fort Worth

Fort Worth councilman wants housing for homeless throughout city

Angel Coleman is one of several homeless people living in a homeless tent camp in Fort Worth on Thursday, March 26, 2015. Code Compliance vacated the area.
Angel Coleman is one of several homeless people living in a homeless tent camp in Fort Worth on Thursday, March 26, 2015. Code Compliance vacated the area. Star-Telegram archives

Having official guidelines for permanent supportive housing for the homeless — which is intended to get the hardest-to-house, chronically homeless people off the streets — should help City Council members resist “not in my backyard” opposition from residents, officials said Tuesday.

Councilman Danny Scarth, who lost his bid for re-election on May 9, urged council members not to cave to political pressure from their constituents and to vote against affordable housing projects that will come before the City Council for zoning changes and other needs.

“It is so easy for us to bow to the political pressure of — you can call it NIMBY [not in my backyard], you can call it BANANA, build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything … whatever the term is, it is so easy to prey to that, ” said Scarth, as he presented the recommendations from the permanent supportive housing task force to the City Council.

The task force, created in August, was an offshoot of previous task force addressing homelessness in Fort Worth. The first task force found that Fort Worth needs more permanent supportive housing, which includes services for people with addictions, mental health diagnoses and physical disabilities.

It’s difficult to find locations for such housing because estabished neighborhoods resist it out of fear of crime, reduced property values and other things.

“These guidelines make it very clear this [housing] is not to be in one location. It is not to be in one part of town. It needs to spread out all over the place,” Scarth continued.

Scarth was on the task force along with council members Kelly Allen Gray and Dennis Shingleton and leaders of the housing industry and homelessness services.

The suggestions from the permanent supportive housing task force include:

▪ Supportive housing should be dispersed throughout Tarrant County.

▪  The housing should be in neighborhoods that are predominantly residential, with surrounding property values that is stable or increasing.

▪ The site should offer a wide variety of social, commercial and health facilities.

▪ The site should have access to public transportation and community resources, such as grocery shopping and banks.

The recommendations include that project sponsors should establish “good neighbor agreements” with other community entities, such as businesses and neighborhood associations.

“If it fits the guideline, then we have to say, ‘Why not? Why not do this?’ ” Scarth said.

“Now it may be that a council member just simply has so much resistance in their own back yard that they have to say, ‘I can’t support this.’ But you know what the rest of us — you —can do then? We can say we approved back on June 2, 2015, a guideline, and this fits everything in the guideline,” he said.

The recommendation also includes setting aside $100,000 of the $3 million in the city’s budget directed to homelessness to act as “seed” money for future housing projects.

The guidelines are due for a City Council vote on June 2.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984

Twitter: @catyhirst

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