The president and CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance has resigned – effective at the end of this month. Cindy Crain joined the nonprofit in 2015, and her departure comes amid months of growing tension between the homeless alliance and Dallas City Hall.
Several homeless service providers have said in just three years Cindy Crain has radically changed how homelessness is tracked and managed across Dallas and Collin counties. Larry James, CEO of City Square, told KERA in December that homelessness in Dallas would be far worse without her.
“I have found very few professionals with her kind of expertise, combining that intellectual ability with an absolute love for the population she’s trying to serve,” James said. “When we have the annual homeless census, she’s right out there with everybody, and when an encampment is being closed she’s right there on the front line doing case management.”
Under Crain’s leadership, MDHA spearheaded the 2016 closure of Tent City, which was the 300-person homeless camp in Dallas under Interstates 30 and 45. The group also ushered in new technology to streamline homeless case management, including an app to count homeless individuals in real time as well as a new and more comprehensive system to track how they’re being served.
Crain would not talk about her resignation, but in a statement, she said the homeless alliance has accomplished nearly all the goals she set – and in an interview late last year, she said she’s proud of the work she’s done.
“We’ve completely in two and a half years transformed the homeless response system to a very data-driven, with-evidence transparent system,” she said.
Part of that progress includes an actual coordinated system of care, “consistent rules, swift mechanisms for people to get onto a housing list, a fair process of getting on a housing list and removing the silos between agencies – of knowledge and information.”
But in December, a homeless audit conducted by a city auditor slammed Crain and the homeless alliance for a lack of oversight, which could have potentially jeopardized federal funding opportunities and exacerbated the city’s homeless problem. That report prompted some Dallas City Council members to call for her to step down. Crain talked to KERA soon after the report was released:
“It doesn’t matter the work we do. As long as an elected official sees a homeless person in a tent on the side of the road, right away they think nothing has changed,” she said. “I keep hearing nothing has changed and I’m flabbergasted because everything has changed.”
According to the most recent homeless point-in-time count, which was published in March, while the number of people sleeping outside continues to grow in Dallas, there has been a drop in veteran and chronic homelessness. The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance has also been able to better identify and help vulnerable populations like families with children, seniors and people under 24. Crain has strongly advocated for more permanent and affordable housing in Dallas as the only effective solution to the city's homeless problem.
The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance has appointed Diana Romagnoli to lead the organization in the interim. Crain’s last day is April 30.
Cindy Crain is a member of KERA's Community Advisory Board.
This story has been updated.