AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

—  admin

Defining Homes • Ask the EXPERTS

With the economy still in a wicked mess, reports are that the latest trend in homebuying is not buying. Renters are on the rise. But are they? Real estate source Inman reported in January that it is cheaper to buy in the majority of the country’s larger cities. Keith Jurow reported last year on World Property Channel that a Harris Interactive survey found renting a better option. So which is it? We asked locals in the industry how the trends are swaying the Dallas housing market and the frustrations behind them.

……………………

Michael Litzinger

Michael Litzinger
William Davis Realty Uptown

The trend has affected my business significantly. The firm I recently moved to seems to be more in tune with today’s market. Their streamlined, online process requires less paperwork which makes it better for the client, a much quicker turn around for me and better for the environment.

Leasing does move property these days, and I am just glad the industry moves in some fashion whether it’s leasing or selling.

I do think the trend has affected us locally somewhat, but not nearly as severely as in most other areas. I still feel good about the Dallas market.  I know Realtors in other areas that can’t say the same.

Buyers are decreasing to some degree. Even with low interest rates, I’ve had a lot of buyers come to me and then disappear.

 

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Derrick Dawson

Derrick Dawson
Texas Pride Realty

As an active and producing Realtor also working in property management, I’d say the rental trend has picked up significantly, but that doesn’t mean it’s been ideal for property renters/owners or for the multi-family industry. The rental market has been stable but faces some challenges based on broken leases due to financial hardship or unemployment. Many are playing it safe by downsizing or combining rental homes based on economic conditions, being fearful of keeping their jobs and saving for the future.
Today is a buyer’s market and an ideal time to get out of the rent race. The downfall to the buyer’s market that I have seen personally is buyers and investors taking advantage of desperate people in today’s markets, possibly causing detriment to individuals or families in their time of need but also bringing down values in those areas making it harder for others to sell.

 

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Dan Flynn

 

Dan Flynn
Dave Perry-Miller InTown

The trend of leasing over buying has changed the way I preview properties in my area. Leasing is so hot now, I’ve looked at rentals and try to know the different apartment communities close by. Now I am much faster to respond to leasing needs.

I process far more leases to build my future list of clients. I try to educate and prepare them for the buying process down the road. Using a Realtor to find the perfect place to lease makes a lot of sense for those wanting to buy in the future but also for those who don’t really want to do the legwork.

I recently represented a seller who could not sell his property for the amount he was hoping for. Finding qualified buyers in his market and price range wasn’t easy. Another Realtor’s client was interested in leasing the property so

I had to have that conversation with my seller. The seller decided to go with the lease. While sales are still going strong, leasing has increased. While this really is the time to buy, I think all the media attention scares buyers. Potential buyers need to know that the market is stable here and we are one of the cities leading the nation in sales right now.  Go buy a house now or pay more for it later both in price and interest rates.

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Keith M. Thomas

Keith M. Thomas
1111 Apartment Locators

Although the economy has definitely affected us here, it is worse in other areas of the country. Dallas continues to grow and so I feel the trend’s impact on Dallas has been positive.

My company is a fully licensed real estate brokerage company and we handle all residential and commercial real estate transactions yet, our primary business is apartment locating. We want to maintain focus on renters, but we’ve created strategic partnerships with other real estate companies and have a referral program with them. We work closely with our clients to help with all of their real estate needs.

For homes that have reasonable mortgages there is good news. In Dallas, the rental market has significantly gone up, especially from 2010 to present to a  94-97 percent occupancy rate.

Buyers become renters for two reasons: First, they are able to get a nicer home for a lower monthly payment. And second, it doesn’t make sense to buy unless you’re planning to stay. However, buyers are increasing, oddly enough. MetroTex Association of Realtors reported that last August 2010 there were 1,223 properties sold and this August 2011 there were 1,485.

It’s a landlords’ market. Rents are at a premium and good ones go fast. When I show my clients rentals, they want to think about it, I encourage them to act quickly, because the unit is gone within a day or two. Why should homeowners take a loss on waiting for a qualified buyer, when they can rent quickly and hold out for the market to improve?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

UPDATE: Police say man found shot to death in Oak Lawn may have committed suicide

Earlier we reported that 28-year-old Javier Ahumada was found shot to death at an apartment on Dickason Avenue in Oak Lawn on Monday night. Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said the actual address of the complex is 4120 Dickason Ave. He also provided the following update:

“We are still waiting for the M.E. [Medical Examiner's] report but are not ruling out anything at this point. He had mental issues and has tried to harm himself in the past. This may very well be a suicide but we will wait for the M.E. to rule on that. A weapon was found by his body.”

—  John Wright

Another deadly shooting in Oak Lawn

Dallas police arrested a man Thursday in Georgia on charges that he fatally shot a 26-year-old woman at his apartment near Carlisle Street and Cedar Springs Road in Dallas. Michael Paul Lucking, 40, had fled to the Atlanta area by the time Dallas police found the woman dead of a gunshot wound to the upper body.

And today, the Dallas Morning News’ Scott Goldstein reports another fatal shooting in Oak Lawn.

“Dallas homicide detectives are on scene of a reported fatal shooting at Lemmon and Welborn, on the edge of Oak Lawn near Uptown,” Goldstein wrote on Twitter moments ago.

UPDATE: The Dallas Police Department reports at 11:46 a.m.: “Many of you have been calling and inquiring about a shooting that occurred at 3500 Welborn. That shooting appears to be a suicide with a note and gun still in hand.”

—  John Wright

If you heard gunshots in the area of Cedar Springs and Kings Road on Sunday morning …

James Huffer Jr.

… It’s because the gentleman shown here, James Huffer Jr., was allegedly chasing his girlfriend around an apartment complex at 4600 Cedar Springs, firing a gun out the window of his vehicle at about 4:30 a.m. But what happened next is even more unusual. After being handcuffed by police and placed in the back of a patrol car, Huffer somehow managed to get his hands around to the front of his body and hop in the driver’s seat. Then he took off in the patrol car, evading police as he hopped on Stemmons Freeway, Highway 183 west, then Highway 360 South, before ditching the car near Avenue H in Arlington. As of this morning, he was still at large. From DPD:

Dallas and Arlington officers are actively searching for suspect Huffer. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact a local police department at once. It is likely he is still handcuffed. Crime Stoppers is also offering a reward for information leading to his arrest and indictment. The Crime Stoppers number is 214-373-8477.  A photograph of suspect Huffer will follow this announcement. He is a white male, 6 feet tall and approximately 170 pounds. He has blue eyes and brown hair. He is believed to have acquaintances in the Arlington and Grand Prairie area. Suspect Huffer is likely to face a variety of charges including Escape, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, and family violence Assault.

—  John Wright

Gay murder victim Richard Hernandez’s friend to launch website documenting ‘delay of justice’

Victim Richard Hernandez, left, and suspect Seth Lawton Winder

While we’re on the subject of local gay murder victims whose friends want to see justice, we thought we’d let you know about a note we received this morning from one Rudy Araiza.

Araiza was close friends with Richard Hernandez, who was murdered and dismembered at his apartment in Far North Dallas more than two years ago, in September 2008. Seth Lawton Winder is charged with first-degree murder in Hernandez’s slaying and is awaiting a trial that’s been postponed several times. According to the Denton County District Attorney’s Office, Winder’s case is now set for trial in late January.

We aren’t sure whether Araiza, Hernandez’s friend, was inspired by the actions of Lisa Stone’s friends, but he wrote to inquire about obtaining copies of Dallas Voice articles on the murder, because he’s interested in launching a website. Here’s part of what he said:

“I want to start a Richard Hernandez Justice website to keep journals and updates on his delay of Justice! As we leave 2010 and into 2011, we are still in suspense mode waiting to hear, or see ‘Justice’ happen here from delay after delay of Seth Winder. I had a dream the other night, and in my dream Richard was there, in a place where Happiness and Life were the heavens. I was extremely angry with him and told him that he left a lot of people with heavy hearts, he said that everything was going to be okay, and that he was watching over us. It was a typical answer that only Richard would have said to me, which let me know that he was happy and right! It sounds crazy, but I woke up knowing and feeling good inside knowing that Richard for a mere 5 minutes was having a conversation with me. My heart believes that he knows what’s going on, and  he knows Justice will come soon.”

—  John Wright

Youth First Texas leader Sam Wilkes speaks from experience about the struggles of gay teens

Sam Wilkes speaks during the safe schools rally in Lake Cliff Park on Friday.

Sam Wilkes is development director and the only paid staff member at Youth First Texas.

On Sunday he appeared on Lambda Weekly to talk about bullying and how groups like YFT can help.

Wilkes said an estimated one-third to on- half of teen suicide attempts are by LGBTQ youth.

The Centers for Disease Control lists suicide as the third leading cause of death of people ages 15 to 24, just behind accidents and homicide. More than 4,000 young people commit suicide every year — that’s one every two hours.

According to estimates, 100 to 200 attempts are made for every actual suicide.

On Friday, at a rally in Lake Cliff Park in Oak Cliff to support safe schools, Wilkes spoke about the youth who attend YFT.

“These are youth who are marginalized and have no other place to turn,” he said. “In fact many of them are homeless because they feel they are safer on the streets than they are in their own homes.”

On Lambda Weekly, Wilkes told his own story and talked about why he’s so passionate about helping other young people.

When he was 18, Wilkes’ mother asked him whether he was gay. Although Wilkes knew he was different from the time he was 12, he wasn’t ready to come out. So he gave his mother an answer that was ambiguous and non-committal.

The next day, his mother handed him a letter that said he was no longer welcome in the house.

Wilkes was fortunate because he already had a job working at a restaurant. He had friends who let him crash on their sofa for several months until he could save enough for an apartment. On his own, he managed to finish school. To this day, he said, his relationship with his parents is nonexistent.

But not all youth are even as fortunate as he was, he said. He called his job at Youth First Texas the best opportunity anyone could have.

Wilkes said more than half of youth at YFT have contemplated or attempted suicide before coming to the center. But after they become involved at YFT and meet other LGBTQ youth, depression and risky behavior decreases tremendously.

—  David Taffet

Man shot with Taser during aggravated robbery early Thursday on Rawlins Street in Oak Lawn

A man was shot with a Taser during an aggravated robbery at an apartment complex on Rawlins Street in Oak Lawn early Thursday.

According to Dallas police reports, the victim and several friends were standing in the parking lot of an apartment complex at 3913 Rawlins St. at about 1:15 a.m. The suspect, wearing a black-and-white ski mask and dark baggy clothing, approached yelling “empty your pockets” and “give me your money.” When the victim and his friends refused and yelled “no,” the suspect shot the victim in the upper body with a Taser, bringing him to his knees. The suspect then fled northbound in the alley between North Hall and Rawlins streets.

The victim refused medical attention and pulled out the Taser probes himself, according to police reports. The suspect didn’t take any property.

We’re awaiting a response from Dallas police as to whether they believe this case may be related to an incident last weekend in which a man posing as a U.S. marshal threatened a traffic patrol volunteer with a gun.

UPDATE: It’s not the same guy, according to DPD Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, who described the suspect in the most recent case as a black male, 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 120 pounds. “The U.S. marshal guy was white,” Janse said.

—  John Wright

Woman brutally beaten after suspect learns she’s transgender; San Antonio PD says no hate crime

How could this not be a hate crime?

A male suspect brutally beat a woman in San Antonio after learning she was transgender, KENS Channel 5 reports. The story doesn’t provide much detail, but police told KENS the suspect and the victim had an “arrangement” and that he expected to “have a good time with her.” But after he learned she was transgender, he beat her badly in the face and dumped her off outside an apartment complex, where she knocked on a door begging for help.

Texas’ hate crimes law includes “sexual preference” but NOT gender identity. However, the new federal hate crimes law passed last year does protect transgender people and presumably could be used in this case. If the man beat the victim because she is transgender and not cisgender, then yeah, we’d say that’s a hate crime. Let’s get with it, San Antonio police.

—  John Wright