Monday, January 21, 2008

Questions for Fort Worth's Mayor's Advisory Commission on Homelessness (MACH)

Below is an email that I sent to my City Council Representative in hopes that she can help me or maybe direct me to the proper place to obtain some answers about the $2.4M dollars that the City is planning to spend on homelessness. At first, the City wanted a 10 year plan to "erradicate" homelessness, now I hear that erradication has been abandoned and "management of" has been substitued for the word erradicate. I am all for helping this segment of our population; however, I don't believe that the taxpayers of Ft. Worth can afford, nor would a majority of us want to, have an ever increasing budget for welcoming homeless to our City and providing them free services w/out any accountability, self empowerment thru consequences for their choices year after year. I am exercising my American right to ask questions to our elected officials and/or persons whos salaries are paid with our taxdollars.

Dear Ms. Hicks -

Below are just a few of the questions some of us have in regards to the homeless issue. Is it possible to get answers to these questions now, before the City (MACH & Otis Thornton) make their firm decisions on what budget and plans to put before the Council regarding Homelessness? I have attended several meetings on the topic, however, have been unable to find the correct and appropriate venue to ask such questions. Your help in finding out how, when, and from whom to get answers would be greatly appreciated.

1. What exactly is the $2.4M going to buy? Specifics?
2. What are the salaries of the all social workers involved in the Homelessness budget?
3. Where exactly is the $2.4M coming from? How much from City funds? What City Account is it coming from?
4. How "green" is this new building going to be? What energy saving designs and lighting is proposed?
5. Who exactly is going to be doing the accessing of individuals? Degree'd? What is the salary for such person?
6. What does one have to do to get free services? ie, watch educational video, attended class of somesort, etc.
7. What measurable systems are in place for benchmarks on decreasing # of homeless individuals?
8. How much money is going towards street outreach? (Other than engagement team)
9. Is workforce commission on site at Day Resource Center (DRC)? If not, whynot?
10. Where do the persistently and severely mentally ill individuals go? Live? What services are offered to them?
11. Since your plans are promoting "erradication" or "decreasing" homelessness, when does your annual operations budget start to decrease from $1.0M - $1.5M? If not, whynot?
12. How many x-cons does the City currently employ?
13. Is MACH looking at new City employment positions that could hire xcons? If not, whynot? If so, who is investigating this?
14. Explain how housing will help individuals who don't, and have no desire, to work?
15. What systems of accountability are planned for individuals who do not have job and have no desire to work?
16. Is the City doing anything to hold indigent offenders of the law accountable? If so, who can we contact for proof of such?
17. How many individuals claim indigency in Ft. Worth on an annual basis?
18. What is the path of an individual who commits a Class C Misdemeanor such as panhandling or PI? (Pub Intox)
19. If this individual claims indigency, what is path they follow? What consequences are paid for the crime? (Can't say community service - the City does not allow individuals claiming indigency to do Comm. Serv. as the State Law advises)
20. Is anything being done to obtain the enhancement upgrade of the law for Class C Misdemeanors? If so, What? If not, whynot?
21. Who would have the authority to institute more rehab/educational type programs in the City Jail for people who commit Class C Misdemeanors?
22. For the non profits who get hundreds of thousands of dollars to "help" the homeless popluation, what measuring systems are in place for accountability of the dollars spent by these orgs? Are the org's books open to public? Why or Whynot?
23. What systems are planned to ensure that "affordable" and "transitional" housing projects will not become blights in the future?
24. What systems are planned if measurable benchmarks are not obtained? In other words, if the homeless popluation doesn't significantly decrease year after year, what happens then?
25. What homelessness model system in the country is having success after 5 years? If there is one, what are the major contributing factors and are we using them? If none, why are we copying and believing others?
26. Is the City doing anything to promote local companies hiring individuals with criminal background? If so, what? What is the success of such promotion? If not, whynot? If not, what does MACH suggest for these individuals to do for income?
27. How many members of MACH (Mayor's Advisory Committee on Homelessness) are providers, or affiliates, of service providing companies and organizations to the homeless population?
28. How many members of MACH are ordinary individuals (persons w/out any potential to make money from the homeless population) from the direct surrounding area of shelters that have first hand experience in dealing with this population?
29. How much money, if any, is being spent on holding irresponsible, unloving, un-nuturing parents accountable for early childhood parenting (as this IS a "root" cause of homelessness as opposed to a root cause being affordable housing)?

Please don't get me wrong, I'm all for "helping" the homeless individuals as I employ as many as I possibly can and I talk to many of them constantly; I'm just not convinced that the City is spending our monies prudently and as effectively as possible in truly "helping" this population of our community. Again, thanks in advance for any time, help and leadership you can offer me.


Anonymous said...

Did you ever get your questions answered? You ask many great questions.


Email: Tommarashaleneveu (at) sbcglobal (dot) com.

Suzette said...

Anonymous (Tom) - No. I have not gotten my questions answered. I have found that Otis Thornton and others do not want to think in the terms that I asked my questions. IMO, The City of Ft. Worth wants to completely follow what other cities are doing, those are the models they are following and when it comes to specific questions about the details, everything gets so blurry and unknown that it's impossible to come up with answers. This will be a never ending issue and problem until City Governments start thinking outside of the box and listening to people with good ideas. Thanks so much for reading.

johnhspivey said...

Hey Suzette,
Well, as you see and as I've always said, government is the least efficient means of getting help to those that really need it. With that said, the Salvation Army isn't the world's best either (according to your other article)... However, the small organization you mentioned (Paradise Center) seems pretty darn good!
Maybe, the more decentralized the better!
Great stuff!

Suzette said...

John - The Salvation Army isn't what it used to be and I believe they have gotten away from their founding passions and principles. The Ft. Worth Lancaster office does not practice "Good Neighbor" habits nor is the management team worth a darn. Yes, Paradise Center does more good than any other organization that deals with the mentally ill, IMO. Thanks much for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

Have any questions about being homeless?? Ask someone who is. I'll answer any you got. I am just a tad bit offended by the stance that you and others seem to take on this issue. I am 27 years old. I became homeless not long after my mother died. I have been homeless for 3 years, since July 2006. I am a full time college student at TCC South. I stay at the Union Gospel Mission and pay rent so I can focus on school. I am an English major. I want to be an editor.

As I said, any questions? Ask!

Melissa Bates

Suzette said...

Melissa - What "stances" do I have that offend you? Thanks for reading and commenting, I look forward to understanding what it is that offends you about "my stances."