DISD, non­prof­its pro­pose home­less stu­dent shel­ter

Plan calls for shut­tered school to have 35 beds, pro­vide sup­port ser­vices

The Dallas Morning News - - Metro&state - By COR­BETT SMITH Staff Writer cor­bett­smith@dal­las­news.com

There are at least 112 high school stu­dents in Dal­las ISD who live unac­com­pa­nied, in a car, park, camp­ground or aban­doned build­ing.

But that num­ber could be re­duced by a third. DISD is poised to take a big step in help­ing its home­less stu­dent pop­u­la­tion.

Dur­ing Thurs­day’s board briefing, DISD trus­tees saw the first draft of an agree­ment to col­lab­o­rate with non­prof­its Prom­ise House and Ci­tysquare and phi­lan­thropist group So­cial Ven­ture Part­ners Dal­las to cre­ate a first-of-its-kind shel­ter for stu­dents.

The ef­fort, called After8Toe­d­u­cate, would use a shut­tered DISD cam­pus in Fair Park — Fan­nie C. Har­ris Ele­men­tary on East Grand Av­enue — as a 35-bed shel­ter, pro­vid­ing 14- to 21-yearold stu­dents a place to stay as well as ex­tra ed­u­ca­tion help and sup­port ser­vices. It also would serve as a 24/7 dropin cen­ter for the district’s

3,500 stu­dents who lack a fixed night­time res­i­dence, giv­ing im­me­di­ate as­sis­tance with food, laun­dry, hy­giene, cloth­ing and other ser­vices.

“I think this is a se­ri­ous, un­met need for a lot of our kids,” trustee Dustin Marshall told district ad­min­is­tra­tors, “and I’m ec­static that we’re ad­dress­ing them. Thank for your part­ner­ship and for driv­ing a coali­tion of very qual­i­fied non­prof­its to work with the district.”

The district would grant the use of the build­ing, pay for util­i­ties, cus­to­dial help and se­cu­rity, and pro­vide meal ser­vices dur­ing the week. Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by Sherry West Chris­tian, the as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent for stu­dent ser­vices, the district would pay no more than $135,000 per year for what could be as long as a 17-year agree­ment.

“I know we are in times of bud­get need, and so I un­der­stand the con­cerns about adding more money,” Chris­tian said.

She later ex­plained that the district is ne­go­ti­at­ing with Dal­las City Man­ager T.C. Broad­nax to po­ten­tially al­low the city to pick up util­i­ties or se­cu­rity costs.

The After8 coali­tion would pay the ma­jor­ity of the cost for the shel­ter, which is slated for a soft open­ing next sum­mer if DISD trus­tees ap­prove the plan. The non­profit would raise around $2 mil­lion to ren­o­vate the ele­men­tary school, then pro­vide around the same amount yearly for pro­gram­ming and ser­vices.

There were con­cerns from some trus­tees about the lan- guage in the draft agree­ment. Trustee Joyce Fore­man was wor­ried that the agree­ment, if un­changed, could po­ten­tially make DISD re­spon­si­ble for re­plac­ing big-ticket items such as HVAC sys­tems or roofs if they failed dur­ing the col­lab­o­ra­tion. Chris­tian said $20,000 a year would be set aside for main­te­nance costs.

“You are say­ing good things, but this doc­u­ment that’s in front of me does not cover that,” Fore­man said. “So, the doc­u­ment re­ally does need to be re­vis­ited.”

Trustee Au­drey Pinker­ton called it a “no-brainer” for DISD to pro­vide the build­ing and lim­ited util­i­ties, grounds-keep­ing and main­te­nance costs. But she ex­pressed philo­soph­i­cal con­cerns about do­ing more than that, since the district was funded to teach “kids in a school,” and not tackle larger so­ci­etal woes.

“I worry about what kind of mes­sage it sends if we sign up to pay the bill ... then the next time and the next time and the next time, it be­comes a prece­dent,” Pinker­ton said. “That Dal­las ISD is some­how a char­ity in meet­ing th­ese so­ci­etal needs. And so I’m re­ally wrestling with this par­tic­u­lar dilemma here.”

Board pres­i­dent Dan Mic­ci­che said he would sup­port the plan, but would ask DISD Su­per­in­ten­dent Michael Hinojosa to con­sider some of the trus­tees’ con­cerns about the con­tract. If those could be ad­dressed in a timely fash­ion, trus­tees would vote to fi­nal­ize the agree­ment later this month. If not, Mic­ci­che would push the vote to Novem­ber.

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