The Housing Crisis Center (HCC) was founded as the Dallas Tenants Association by Dorothy Masterson in 1978. Dorothy did this because she saw something that bothered her – people, just like you and me, being unlawfully evicted from their homes, facing great housing discrimination, and living in inhumane conditions. She wouldn’t stand for it and waiting for someone else to address the problem wouldn’t work for her, so she recruited her family and friends to provide pro-bono legal assistance to those who needed it most.
From 1978 until 1988, Dorothy ran the agency with this sole mission: to provide pro-bono legal assistance. In 1988 the Congress passed the first piece of homeless assistance legislation, the McKinney-Vento Act. Across the country, the 1980s were not good for those with serious mental health conditions living in long-term facilities such as Terrell State Hospital in Texas. The 1980s saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, but a new war was starting in the States, a war on some of the most vulnerable populations we have, including the severely mentally ill.
McKinney-Vento gave rise to what we call “Transitional Housing” today. This is housing for the homeless that is time-limited. Transitional Housing serves very well those who experience short-term homelessness because of issues like job loss – and it works. In the late 1980s, Dorothy started the first of three transitional housing programs at HCC. We continue to operate those same three programs today (Home Again, Project Restore, and Welcome Home).
Eventually experts in Washington put two and two together. They looked at the success of transitional housing, but simultaneously continued to see populations of homeless on the streets growing. Those remaining homeless were the same group of individuals who once evicted from state institutions and were too low-functioning to qualify for transitional housing. What to do with them? Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) was the answer.
In the early part of this century, PSH knocked on Dallas’ door and was let in. In 2005, HCC started its first of now four PSH programs. HCC has two PSH programs exclusively for veterans (Veterans Housing Partnership and Permanent Housing Services), one PSH program that is a partnership with the Dallas Housing Authority (Good Neighbor Project), and still one more primarily for families with children (ACE).
The “Culture of Poverty” is a theory that believes the poor in America have a distinct system of values, one that is different than the middle-class values in which most of the country operates. The theory asserts that when a child is born into poverty, he or she is socialized into behaviors, attitudes, actions, and paradigms that will ultimately trap them in poverty, leaving them little hope of escape. Many Americans would like to believe a common fallacy — that the poor are just like everyone else, but with less money in their pockets. This is simply not true. HCC has staff who are dedicated to narrowing the gap between our clients and the rest of the country. HCC recognizes the culture of poverty, how it has affected the lives of those served, and, most importantly, how to change the impact of that culture one client at a time to stop the cycle.
Intensive case management is a model of case management specifically intended for the most challenging clients — those with the highest number of barriers (mental illness, addiction, homelessness, etc). Case managers utilizing an intensive case management model work to promote change in clients and, over time, empower the client to control his / her own life. In these instances, the case manager acts as many things to the client — a coach, a counselor. In intensive case management, each client receives an individualized service plan complete with individualized interventions. This case management model continues to be the most effective considering the demographic served and the paradigm used.
Since its inception, the Housing Crisis Center has been utilizing scattered-site housing to host residential programs. The long-standing shelter model is one that is very popular and certainly has several benefits; however, hosting a housing program in a shelter teaches clients how to survive in a shelter — not in the “real world.” In order to stay true to the notion of recognizing a culture of poverty, HCC has decided to house clients in “real” apartment complexes. These complexes are unrecognizable as social service residences. These are mixed-income complexes. Case managers have offices on site, meaning they house their office location at a unit in the same apartment complex that houses the clients. They are just as accessible as a case manager would be in a shelter model, but the practice of scattered-site housing utilizes valuable modeling for clients. In other words, clients see how their neighbors, not HCC clients, are going to work, feeding the children, and managing a household budget on a daily basis. This is also called Observational Learning, is an important tool for social workers and, through utilizing scattered-site housing, social workers have the modeling tool at their disposal.