I joined Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance at the end of August and wow!! What a time it has been. As we close out 2021, and I reflect on my first 100 days as the new President/CEO of MDHA, I am met with immense gratitude for the many individuals who work within the Homeless Response System. I am in awe of the tremendous work that they do each day to serve our unhoused neighbors often on limited financial and human resources.
There are a plethora of organizations spread across both Dallas and Collin Counties that focus their attention and efforts on a segment of our community that is often overlooked and neglected. Many of these organizations understand the weight of the task at hand and continue day-in and day-out to lean into the work of making the experience of homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring. I have also stepped into this collaborative space at a time when unprecedented federal and local dollars have been pouring into our region to either stave off the devastating impact that COVID has had on someone’s housing stability and/or to quickly work on rehousing individuals that have experienced life on the street.
There are individuals focused on serving our youth population who are often the most invisible part of our unhoused population.
There are veterans who have served our country and now must rely on the service of others to help find and obtain stable, safe, and secure housing.
And there are whole families who have been negatively impacted by the worse our society has to offer in the way of equitable services and opportunities that find themselves with no place to go at the end of the day and are forced to either crowd into relative’s homes, sleep in their cars, or turn to shelters.
And then there are those who struggle with mental health issues or drugs and alcohol and just don’t have the same means as others to support themselves in getting appropriate care, services, and assistance and often spiral into homelessness.
And even in thinking through the huge swaths of those experiencing homelessness, our unhoused neighbors are not unlike any of the rest of us. And in describing the situations of many, I am significantly reducing the nuanced situations of over 4,000 people in our own communities that at any given time, are in need of safe, stable, and secure housing. There are unique circumstances and even more unique solutions for our unsheltered brothers and sisters.
The Homeless Response System continues to work to respond and meet those unique and nuanced needs. The work currently being done is focused on a collaborative approach that seeks to ensure no one falls through the cracks. There are individuals with a heart for this community that I am grateful to see stand in the gap. There are dollars being poured into filling those gaps to help bolster the work required. And then there are the people that have worked within the broken and inadequate systems with complicated and often confusing policies making the work difficult to do, even in the best circumstances.
I am awed by the resilience of this community. Not only those serving, but those being served. I am in awe of the very nature of the folks whose hearts work within a system that is not the easiest to simply get people housed. I am appreciative of their tireless labor and their dedication to service. I am truly blessed to find myself here at Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance that serves those who serve. Our North Star and one I have spoken passionately about with my team, is that we ensure we are creating and maintaining a system that works best for those that need it to work best. The work is important, the impact is greater, and the people we are able to serve are absolutely worthy of all of our hands being at the plow.
A huge thank-you to the team I get to work alongside each day. Thank you for the opportunity to step into this space and thank-you for your support and your commitment to doing the work each day. I continue to enter each day inspired by all of you and with a sense of wonderment and a renewed spirit to learn and to serve. Onward in service beside MDHA staff and partners, the work is plenty.
Joli Angel Robinson is currently the President/CEO of Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, lifting up the conversation around housing and homelessness and supporting the homelessness ecosystem in Dallas and Collin Counties. Previously she served as the VP of Government Affairs & Public Policy at Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity where she advocated for affordable housing throughout Dallas and Kaufman Counties. Prior to her time at Dallas Area Habitat, she managed The Office of Community Affairs and the Youth Outreach Unit at the Dallas Police Department.