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Homeless task force report urges more permanent supportive housing, funding, collaboration

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By Scott Nishimura snishimura@bizpress.net

Fort Worth should encourage more collaboration among providers and funders of homeless services, the addition of more permanent supportive housing across Tarrant County, and the restoration of city funding for Fort Worth’s Directions Home program to end chronic homelessness, a task force recommended Tuesday.

The report did not address the controversial question of whether there should be a moratorium on an expansion of emergency shelter space on the city’s East Lancaster corridor, where homeless services dominate land uses. That was not part of the original charge to the task force, created earlier this year by Mayor Betsy Price.

“I wish like the devil we would have addressed it,” Don Boren, a Meadowbrook businessman and member of the task force, said in an interview after the task force gave its final report Tuesday to Price and City Council members.

A majority of task force members likely would have supported a recommendation for a moratorium, Boren said.

The report says the city “should become more proactively engaged in planning, education, partnerships, and funding for programs and services that prevent and end homelessness.”

Among the report’s key recommendations, the city should:

* Support the establishment of a “Funders Council” to promote collaboration among foundations, local governments, and other supporters, and the establishment of an “alliance of service providers;”

* Support the addition of 600 units of permanent supportive housing across Fort Worth and Tarrant County by 2018, compared to the current 1,900 countywide;

* Restore funding for Fort Worth’s homelessness programs – pared in recent years’ budgets – to $3 million from the current $2.5 million. Some of the increase should be used to help developers that build permanent supportive housing, Council member Kelly Allen Gray, who represents the district that includes East Lancaster and co-chaired the task force with Councilman Danny Scarth, said.

“Not just vouchers,” Gray said. The ideas haven’t “quite been worked out yet, but we know what we don’t want it to be used for.”

The findings generally reflect those of other reports on Fort Worth homelessness.

Scarth emphasized the region should consider homelessness a countywide issue, not just one contained to one City Council district.

Price highlighted the collaborative aspects of the recommendations in praising the report’s recommendations.

“This brings together the foundations and philanthropic supporters…to figure out who’s giving here” and how to best leverage those investments, she said.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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