Partner agencies are working together to make homelessness rare, short-term and non-recurring in Fort Worth by 2018. The Directions Home concept appears simple, but in practice it is a complex community collaboration between the public and private sectors, with employers, landlords and homeless service organizations coordinating with public sector services. Hundreds of professionals and volunteers are focused on reducing and shortening homelessness and funded by financial contributions from public agencies, as well as individuals, foundations and corporations. Before Directions Home the majority of public funding spent on homelessness was devoted to sheltering and not on programs that would end homelessness. Now, an additional $30 million in private funding has been secured, as well as about $2.4 million annually, for local political entities to ensure Fort Worth focuses on providing a compassionate way out of homelessness. Directions Home involves steering homeless persons to permanent supportive housing, job opportunities and dealing with underlying medical issues. Particular emphasis is on helping homeless children, who make up more than 25 percent of the homeless in Fort Worth.
An innovative and unique system to enhance access to mental health services, Mental Health Connection’s “no wrong door promise” is more than mere words. Twenty-nine local mental health organizations, from large public entities to specialized private providers, come together to address community needs and determine potential improvements. The initative has strong volunteer support which brings community partners together to strategically address community needs. In the 11 years since is formation, Mental Health Connection has generated more than $45 million in funds and in-kind services to improve mental health care. With one staff person and an army of volunteers the Mental Health Connection continues to focus on its vision: No wrong door to the right mental health resources.
We Are Legal Grafitti Abatement
Standard-issue weapons to fight graffiti in Fort Worth produced little results, but when two high school art teachers and students from rival high schools decided to channel the talents and time of youth from doing graffiti to producing well-conceived and approved art, things changed. WAL is a student- driven, non-scholastic, voluntary effort that redirects the talents and time of stereotyped central city youth, predominately Hispanic. Each youth signs a WAL contract pledging to no longer paint illegally. With only guidance from the teachers and support from a growing number of community organizations and businesses, WAL students have transformed themselves from would-be criminals who were fined for tagging into Fort Worth’s “Pop Surrealism Post Modern Urban Art Movement, Formerly Known as Graffiti” artists. They also are transforming the community by adorning walls with murals rather than graffiti. As a result, still active taggers respect the wall murals that WAL students have painted by not tagging the work. The work of WAL students is paying off. Fort Worth has seen a 33 percent decline in graffiti, particularly in the neighborhood from which most WAL participants come. WAL students are making Fort Worth a more attractive place to live.