Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson calls attention to homelessness issue
By Cheryl Smith
It was about 10 years ago when businessman Gary Hasty and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) discussed providing housing for veterans in Dallas.
This was a priority for the Congresswoman who, as the first registered nurse elected to Congress, actually worked at the VA Hospital in Dallas as the Chief Psychiatric Nurse, before entering public service as a Texas state representative. She said men and women serving in the military were having a difficult time finding housing once they returned home from serving their country.
Even yesterday speaking at the annual gathering for veterans, the congresswoman noted that, “Dallas has the largest veteran homeless population in the country.”
Joined by State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, Dallas County Commissioner Theresa Daniel, and City Councilman Adam Bazaldua, who all saluted the veterans; the focus on and support of veterans was clear.
Saying she was not thinking about filling the Congresswoman’s shoes, just stepping into them and continuing some of the great work, Rep. Crockett, who won the Democratic nomination to succeed Johnson, who will retire at the end of the year, pledged her continued support.
“I will continue to be accessible, just like I was in Austin,” she said.
Mr. Hasty, who is a former Sam Houston State University football star and Dallas police officer, worked on the project feverishly and in 2014 Heroes House opened, providing affordable housing for veterans in the Ferguson Road Initiative area of Dallas.
The opening was a grand affair with music, entertainment (in the form of veterans singing), and yes, Congresswoman Johnson was there for the occasion. Hasty, and his team, works to ensure every veteran feels special.
The 19,000 square ft. at 2122 Highland Road in East Dallas, used to be a boarded-up apartment complex structure that had been vacant since 2009 due to a five-alarm fire, pointed out Hasty, who partnered with the City of Dallas, Veritex, Midsouth Bank, and a group of private philanthropists led by attorney Ed Spears, and redeveloped the property into 30 units of efficiency, and one, and two-bedroom garden-style apartments that the men and women can call home.
Then the next project, a much larger undertaking, involved a similar property at 2120 52nd St, in Oak Cliff. That property was transformed into 67 apartments and 60,000 square feet of living and recreational space for veterans and their families.
For Hasty and his family, Heroes House is part of the family. During Memorial Day and Veterans Day; as well as many times for Fourth of July and Labor Day, you will find him, his wife, mother and when three children at Heroes House for a brief program, food and fellowship.
“This is about more than housing, it’s about showing appreciation and that we care,” said Hasty, who is always looking for and sharing opportunities for his extended “family.” “I know everyone who lives here and I know their story. This is their home and they help take care of it!”
And they know “Mr. Hasty cares,” as they come out and take part in the festivities with community folk, VA administrators and staff, elected officials, and even other veterans who live in the area. Or some are like the congresswoman; people who have a special place in their hearts for those “heroes” who deserve affordable, decent housing.