By STEPHANIE PATRICK
Love is grand for M. Otis Thornton, and it’s carrying him away from Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.
Thornton, TCHC’s executive director since 2015, married a Tennessee family physician on Oct. 7, and he’s moving back to The Volunteer State to be with their family and near her medical practice in the northeast region. Thornton also is enrolled in a graduate program at East Tennessee State University, and he plans to do some consulting work.
His last day hasn’t been determined, but it’s slated for Thanksgiving week. That will allow TCHC’s board of directors to complete the national search for Thornton’s successor. A final decision could come soon.
“TCHC’s board is eager for the new director and I to spend a couple of days together,” he stated in another email response early this month. “Thus, I expect my time will be spent answering questions and, if asked, sharing my perspective on things.”
Thornton stated he isn’t part of the search process.
The next general board meeting is tomorrow at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. It’s unknown whether the board will choose a new executive director and announce the choice.
“I am very hopeful that the next leader of TCHC can play a role in the expansion of housing opportunities that are affordable, suitably located and well planned,” Thornton stated.
The nonprofit, formed in 1989, leads, coordinates and develops strategies and resources to end homelessness. TCHC plans, funds and administers programs that assist homeless individuals and families in their transitions from homelessness to housing, according to TCHC’s website.
TCHC is the lead agency in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded Fort Worth/Arlington/Tarrant County Continuum of Care for programs providing shelter, housing and services to homeless people.
A TCHC report released this year found 1,924 people in Tarrant and Parker counties experience homelessness on any given day. That’s down from 2,181 in 2009.
But affordable housing and the ability to earn a living wage may become more difficult to obtain as Tarrant County’s population continues to grow, according to the report. That could increase the number of people living in poverty and at risk of becoming among the homeless. Tarrant County’s population is projected to reach more than 2.62 million by 2020, the report states.
Thornton, who oversaw the homelessness programs for the city of Fort Worth for many years before becoming TCHC’s executive director, attributed most of his success to teamwork.
“In my view, service is a responsibility and a privilege,” he stated. “I feel so lucky to have been part of conversations, policymaking and budget writing that resulted in people getting back into housing.
“Despite the distance that remains, I am proud of the progress our community has made to address the issue of homelessness forthrightly, with wisdom and compassion.”