For Ken Webb, his involvement in helping Dallas fight homelessness was a natural decision. The corporate and securities attorney and FBFK shareholder is compelled to help by his faith to give time to the issue, and he was eventually appointed by Mayor Mike Rawlings as the first chair of the Dallas Citizen Homelessness Commission. The group studied homelessness in Dallas and made recommendations about how to address it.
“Homelessness is so significant in Dallas that it is really intractable, multi-faceted problem that requires a lot of different issues to be addressed,” Webb says.
In the last bond election, the city of Dallas set aside $20 million dollars to address the issue, to be used on affordable housing and other issues. Much of those funds remain unused because of resistance to homeless housing, but the city is still looking for alternatives.
“After a place to live, one of the first things that most of them want is a job. That’s one of the misconceptions about persons experiencing homelessness – they aren’t lazy, they want to work like the rest of us,” Webb says. “The problem is that a low wage job isn’t enough to afford housing in this tight housing market.”
Webb says fighting homelessness is as much about stigma and mentality as it is about funding and policy. When homeless housing was being studied in Lake Highlands, a community meeting turned angry when residents learned of the possibility, despite new senior homeless housing on the edge of their neighborhood that has existed without incident, organized by Catholic Charities. When Dallasites look out their window and see someone they think is experiencing homelessness, Webb says it is important to remember that it is just a small slice of those in that situation.
“We need to realize that they are just like us. The us-them attitude is something we need to get past,” Webb says.
The commission that Webb chaired helped create the connector project, which is a bus service that provides bus loops connecting homeless shelters with important locations like the social security office, the VA, and Parkland Hospital. The commission worked with shelters to add beds, as they are usually at capacity.
“Part of that relates to the fact that there isn’t enough affordable and supportive housing for a homeless person to move into, so there is a logjam that illustrates how interconnected all these problems are,” Webb says.
Today, Webb is still involved in homelessness, serving as co-chair of a strategic planning committee with the Metro Dallas Homeless Authority. The goal is to make sure the different agencies are working together and not creating redundancies in the system. All the time and energy Webb has spent has admittedly taken a bite out of his career, but Webb says he is content with his decisions.
“That doesn’t discourage me from doing it, because life is bigger than what you do in the office,” Webb says.