Oak Cliff residents speak out about proposed homeless project

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by GARY REAVES

WFAA

Posted on June 21, 2010 at 11:31 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 22 at 3:28 AM

Cliff Manor Apartments

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DALLAS — High-rise apartments usually bring thoughts of big money. But some Dallas residents say they are more concerned about a crime-ridden housing complex if formerly homeless people are allowed to move in at Cliff Manor.

The auditorium at Methodist Dallas Medical Center couldn't contain all the people who wanted to attend a town hall meeting Monday night to discuss the Dallas Housing Authority's plan to move up to 100 recovering homeless out of The Bridge shelter downtown and in to Cliff Manor, a DHA apartment building in the 2400 block of Fort Worth Avenue in Oak Cliff.

Many residents said they fear the shift of that building away from catering to senior citizens could turn it into a Chicago-style crime haven.

"The high rises have been proven as un-patrollable and have turned into gang headquarters and drug dens," said Ed Rombach of the Wadley Creek Neighborhood Association, addressing DHA officials and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.

With 20 percent of the city's low-income housing already here, Oak Cliff residents fear more trouble ahead.

But authorities promise that Cliff Manor will only accept low-risk older men and women like Kathryn Schultze, who is being treated for depression, and her recovering addict friend, Darlene.

"I've been clean for four years," Darlene said.

"I've taken care of my business; I've seen my doctor, I continue to see my doctor, take my medicine, and I would just like to have a chance to have a place of my own," Schultze said.

But their calm faces can't overcome deep fears of drugs, crime, and decreasing property values along Fort Worth Avenue.

"The Oak Cliff Chamber thinks that this is a travesty," said Bob Stimson, the organization's president. "Just the announcement has stopped any interest in the property that was due to be developed all around that complex."

Virtually every speaker at Monday night's meeting express compassion for the homeless, but those who have been homeless said they still need someone to give them a second chance.

"Today, you don't have to be afraid of me, because I'm not going to steal from you; I'm not going to take from you, because I've been delivered," said Roy Collins of Dallas Street Church. "And it was because I was given a chance, an opportunity."

The meeting ended with the proposal to move some homeless to the Cliff Manor tower still on hold. City Council member David Neumann, who represents the area, said officials have failed to properly sell the idea to the community. Until they do, he said, the concept will be stalled.

Neumann promised Mayor Leppert that he would form an advisory board for community leaders to advise homeless advocates and the housing authority how best to move forward.

E-mail greaves@wfaa.com

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