MSC Corporate Meeting Focuses on Homelessness

Turning its first-quarter focus from housing and immigration challenges in the city, the Mayor’s Star Council dived into health and human services topics with its April meeting on Homelessness. Programmed by current MSC class members Gillian Salerno-Rebic, Harrison Blair, and Kamika King, the evening’s unique and engaging format of round-table discussions provided other members of the organization to chat not only with city and service officials, but those currently affected by homelessness.

In one round table discussion, Phillip Kingston, Councilmember of District 14 in which the monthly meeting was held, spoke about the city’s short-and-long term plans to help the homeless which concentrates on a strategic housing plan for the city first, then providing additional support services to those facing homelessness. Kingston was quick to point out there were many issues needing solving at City Hall before an effective support system for the homeless could be provided.

“All the problems are connected,” Kingston said.

David Woody, President and CEO of The Bridge, provided a comprehensive review of his organization’s services at another table. Started by at-the-time “Homeless Czar” and current mayor Mike Rawlings. As the city’s “lowest barrier” shelter, the Bridge offers a wide range of services to Dallas’ homeless population daily and provides a bed to 250 individuals each night. When questioned about its need to impact more “neighbors” without homes, Woody responded with a desire for more beds for the estimated 1,400 homeless individuals with no shelter opportunity each night.

“I wish we were able to offer more short-term shelter. We’re full every single night and would like to move more individuals indoors,” Woody said.

As a second “wish,” Woody encouraged members of MSC to play the role of advocates for shelter organizations.

“Often individuals see operations of homeless shelters as a hand-out, not a hand-up. Therefore, the need to educate individuals, foundations, and companies on the issues impacting homelessness is imperative. Knowledge and advocacy is one of the best ways inform others as well as decision-makers,” Woody said.

Mayor’s Star Council members were able to hear directly by those affected by homelessness at other round tables.

Charles Piano, currently residing in permanent supportive housing supplied through the efforts of CitySquare, told his story of being homeless for four years before he found his new home. Piano, an entrepreneur at heart and victim of circumstance, lost his wife, his business, and soon found himself on the streets. Living in a tent community under towering highway bypasses, Piano was introduced to support staff at City Square and his life began to turn around. He now finds himself encouraging other homeless to seek the services many organizations provide the homeless.

The May corporate meeting provided an engaging opportunity for MSC Class Six members to meet those directly affected by the state of homelessness, chat with service providers, and listen to city policymakers and staff about their roles in changing the tide of Dallas’ homeless situation and will not soon be forgotten.