A new model for addressing chronic homelessness, The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center changes the way the issue is approached inside and out. Complementing and enhancing its downtown Dallas location, the Center brings numerous services together in a single location to serve over a thousand clients a day.
The city of Dallas knew that addressing the problem of homelessness wouldn’t be as simple as placing a roof over 6000+ heads. Rebuilding the homeless’ support structure would be a city-wide effort, and they needed a place when everyone could come together. This would be the objective of The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center.
“We cannot be a great city and just go make a bunch of money and leave the homeless, the mothers and children … on the side of the road,” says Mike Rawlings, Chairman of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. “That’s not the way the Good Samaritan does it, and we’re a Good Samaritan city.”
Overland approached the downtown site with this sense of community in mind. Rather than masking the problem of homelessness, the goal was to create a local point of pride. A place where those seeking assistance would be referred to as “clients” and the many civic groups invested in the issue could truly work together.
The resulting Center encircles outdoor courtyards, fostering both a sense of community and security. Open to clients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the 76,000-square-foot space acts as a hub for multiple aid groups and their services. Resources include dormitory areas (including an outdoor sleeping pavilion for those uncomfortable indoors), physical and mental health facilities, child care, legal offices, counseling areas, a training facility and security offices. Additional amenities include laundry facilities, a recreation center, pet shelter, library, lockers and postal services. And, at its heart, is a dining pavilion that is shared by all clients. Bright and airy, with a translucent exterior and green roof, the exuding light serves as a warm beacon for the downtown it faces.
Downtown Dallas has embraced the center. While originally facing some NIMBY opposition, the Bridge has proved to be a great neighbor. Crime in the immediate area has dropped by 20%. Property values around the LEED Silver certified building have held solid in an otherwise down market as well.
“The Bridge has made the downtown Dallas community a better place to work and live,” says Rawlings. “The owner of the shop across the street who led the fight against the plans has now said that the Bridge is the best thing that has happened to the neighborhood.”
Most importantly, though, is the good work the Bridge enables. Here, the people of Dallas are now coming together to serve up to 1,400 clients a day, providing for basic needs and establishing the support structure necessary to move them towards permanent employment and housing. Because no one should have face destabilizing hardships alone. And thanks to The Bridge, the people of Dallas don’t have to.