David Gruber is the Development and Communications Director at Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. MDHA is an umbrella organization for the community to manage & distribute federal funds to homeless housing agencies in Dallas, and is responsible for the yearly Homeless Count in Dallas County, among a myriad of other activities.

Oh and we must mention — David is also an interfaith rabbi, who officiates about 40 weddings a year for couples around the world!

Dallas Heroes Project: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the homeless situation in our country?

David Gruber: The modern homeless crisis begins in 1980s in the U.S. Nobody knew what to do about it. Shelters grew out of Christian Missions and people thought, oh we should build more shelters. Then there was a thought, let’s first build a system to make people “housing ready.” We will fix you first by making you pass all these various benchmarks. But this only solved the problem 30-50% of the time.

Then there was a small program in NY that decided to try something really wacky. This “housing first” program had only 2 conditions:  “1. abide by your lease and 2. meet with a case worker on a regular basis. We are going to treat you like a middle-class person. We have wrap around services we encourage you to utilize, but we don’t mandate them.”

Multiple studies across various cities proved “housing first” programs are cheaper and more effective than “housing ready”ones, and now the federal government only funds “housing first” programs.

DHP: What is unique about the homeless situation in Dallas?

DG: Race. 13% of Americans in this country are African American. 40% of the homeless are African Americans. And in Dallas, 70% of the unsheltered homeless are African Americans. These numbers bring race into the discussion.

We don’t know what is causing this, but through a grant funded 100% by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ Unite Dallas Relief Fund, we are launching a program focused on research and action to understand why this is happening and are taking steps to end it.  

DHP: How can we help you?

DG: Volunteer for our Point-in-Time Homeless Count. We need 1000 volunteers to help us count all of the unsheltered homeless in Dallas and Collin counties. It’ll be on Thursday night Jan 26, 2017 from 8 pm -1 am. Register here.

DHP: What advice would you give to people who want to start working in the non-profit world?

One great way is to work a season at United Way. United Way of Metropolitan Dallas hires campaign associates to work through the “giving season” (September – November) and it’s a way to learn more about how non-profits work, how to go out and speak and how to raise funds.