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City of Dallas’ Efforts to Address Homelessness and Vagrancy Criticized

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Homeless woman near tents under a bridge | Image by Shutterstock

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Over the last nine years, roughly 39,000 individuals in Dallas have been classified as homeless, according to Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA).

There is “no way” to provide a precise number of individuals who accept or decline resources offered by the city, according to Freda Nelms, director of data management and reporting for MDHA. Nelms explained that MDHA collects data from numerous organizations, and not all organizations’ programs track the number of homeless or vagrant people they serve.

As for those who remain on the streets, the Office of Homeless Solutions (OHS) Street Outreach attempts to remove their encampments and provide them services. These actions are guided by service requests the city receives through the 311 mobile app, explained Jennifer Brown, the manager of public information for Dallas, to The Dallas Express.

The Office of Homeless solutions refused to provide information to The Dallas Express regarding the number and location of homeless and vagrant encampments in the city.

Since the beginning of the year, seven encampments have been permanently closed, partially through the efforts of the Dallas R.E.A.L. Time Rapid Rehousing (DRTRR) program. Over 100 individuals are enrolled in the program, and over 90 of those individuals are housed, according to Brown.

“On average, one encampment is closed every one to three months, depending on multiple factors such as the size of the encampment population, logistics of vendor and partner availability, housing placement, and individual needs of the clients,” she said.

The continued presence of homeless and vagrant encampments in Dallas has drawn the disapproval of some local advocates.

The president of Keep Dallas Safe, Stephen Moitz, told The Dallas Express that “OHS says that they will prioritize encampments reported on the 311 app, but several residents state that they have been reporting encampments for weeks and months without anything being done by OHS or the city.”

Moitz added that OHS usually responds by saying they can “try” to clean the homeless and vagrant encampments, but they cannot force anyone to leave, so the office typically cleans the area, and the homeless will move down the street.

He noted that encampments in Dallas without a permit are illegal under Penal Code 48.05.

“They (City of Dallas officials) announce a lot of empty platitudes, such as saying they would rehouse over 2,700 households by the end of 2023 through the DRTRR program,” said Moitz. “There are a lot of big promises of getting people rehoused, but they are not coming through.”

He added that he does not blame OHS as much because their hands are tied.

“A lot of things that they want to see happen require more resources. It’s one thing to house someone, but you have to provide the additional services such as substance abuse programs, mental health resources, etc., to help,” he said.

We welcome and appreciate comments on The Dallas Express as part of a healthy dialogue. We do ask that you be kind. Kind to each other and to everyone else in your comments. For more information, please refer to our Complete Comment Moderation Policy.

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Alan Tallis
Alan Tallis
1 month ago

Excellent article. As a former member of the City Homelessness Commission, it’s all talk; no action. These unfortunate folks need to be ten off the streets BUT there is no housing, no shelter space and the City, rich in land, does NOTHING

Lisa Marshall
Lisa Marshall
Reply to  Alan Tallis
1 month ago

Totally agree with Alan Tallis. As a former member as well of the Citizens Homeless Commission there is no Will to build low income housing. The city council and mayor are more interested in revitalizing for mid-high end renters and they don’t care about low income renters. Only 4 houses for every 100. It’s a disgrace.

Anon
Anon
Reply to  Alan Tallis
1 month ago

There is a difference between homeless and vagrants. There are laws to keep vagrancy at bay and they need to be enforced. Also there has to be an end goal the permanent housing solutions means we pay for a roof over their heads basically for their entire life. The residents cannot be forced to stay on the grounds and some continue to panhandle and commit crimes so basically we pay for them to commit crimes then go back and eat dinner and go to bed. There has to be a distinction between the two and then they need to be handled differently.

Mike
Mike
1 month ago

Regardless of everyone’s efforts, there are people who simply don’t want to live in a permanent dwelling! And they shouldn’t be forced to live, or do anything against their will as long as they have the mental acuity to make those decisions!
Even though it’s doesn’t look pretty, those people have a right to live where they want to live barring any health or safety issues!
The Dallas city government needs to treat them like human beings and not like some kind of a dirty rag that needs to be discarded! Treat them with a sense of respect!

Bobby
Bobby
1 month ago

These people are where they want to be. STOP throwing money at a problem that can not be solved. YOu cant give these people a house and pay their bills. They need to clean up and go get a JOB.

Jessica
Jessica
Reply to  Bobby
1 month ago

That’s ignorant and spoken like a person who’s never been through hard times. Everyone that is homeless are not lazy and on drugs. Some people have real life hardships that leaves them homeless and all they need is a helping hand to get their lives back on track. Please take the time to learn about homelessness in Dallas and America in general. Some people work hard every day and still homeless due to jobs not paying live-able wages. Some people get sick and due to politics in America most Americans can’t afford to live. I really hope life doesn’t hit you hard to were you end up homeless due to greed in America because ignorant people will say the same thing about your situation and that could be the farthest thing from the truth. Please try to have compassion and understanding for others not be so quick to throw people away.

caseyp
caseyp
Reply to  Bobby
1 month ago

Not all homeless people are where they want to be but I agree that a lot of them are. Our federal government wastes far more money than it would take to get every homeless family, veteran and others off the street. Once off the street it would be up to them to stay off the street. Taxpayers should not support them for the rest of their lives.

Jessica
Jessica
Reply to  caseyp
1 month ago

Taxpayers spend way more money funding the super rich and politicians then they ever have on the poor. We as taxpayers drink the poison that our money funds the poor no our money funds the rich but since they’re rich you don’t see their government funding as a hand out.

Kenro
Kenro
Reply to  Bobby
1 month ago

Sounds like a bigoted White person. How do you shower and fix your face and hair with no bathroom, mirror, or clean clothes?

Dale Garvin
Dale Garvin
Reply to  Kenro
1 month ago

Why bring race into this discussion? Who sounds like a biggot now

Robbie
Robbie
Reply to  Dale Garvin
1 month ago

There is always someone – or several some ones – who try to turn every incident into racial strife. However, when you look around, you see various ethnic groups moving away from enclaves and into homes throughout neighborhoods in the Dallas Metroplex. I have lived in the same home for 44 years. As homes were built in my neighborhood, they were occupied by white people. Now the area has people of all colors and beliefs/religions and they are GOOD neighbors!

caseyp
caseyp
Reply to  Kenro
1 month ago

Nowhere in any response, other than yours, has race been discussed. Who’s the racist now? Since you mentioned white in your comment you must be other than white. It’s you that is racist by indication that all or the majority of homeless people are other than white. People like you, my friend, are the problem.

Robbie
Robbie
Reply to  Bobby
1 month ago

The real concern for me is the spread of disease that is likely to increase as long as homeless people congregate in large numbers (under bridges, for example.) This may add to the increase of disease in the general population.

Jenn Hickman
Jenn Hickman
1 month ago

I have said for years Dallas need a program like Breaking Ground in NYC (formally Common Ground). Sadly something like that would take hefty private sector donations.

Dallas does not seem to understand once in stable housing, the services should be there to start addressing the underlying causes of how thry ended up homeless.

Studies have shown that an investment in people is a smart investment, it is cheaper to house and treat the homeless than it is to ignore them.

B Parton
B Parton
Reply to  Jenn Hickman
1 month ago

Sorry,bur the sad truth is that a vast majority of the “homeless” CHOOSE to be homeless. It’s a mindset, not a condition.

Kenro
Kenro
Reply to  B Parton
1 month ago

WRONG! Very few people would CHOOSE poverty and humiliation. You folk say that just to comfort yourselves, to keep a tight fist around your money, and to relinquish any sense of responsibility for thy neighbor. But any of us could end up just one job or decision away from losing everything we rely on.

Thankfully, one person I knew had a couch to sleep on while I was unemployed for nearly 2 years doing temp jobs and filing tons of applications each week. I don’t have kids, so the system had no help for me; not even food stamps. I worked HARD wherever I went and lost everything due to the plot of an intimidated employee. Because I wasn’t able to prove I was hired instead of contract, there were no unemployment benefits.

This stuff is REAL!!!!!! People were hit with really hard times these past few years due to the pandemic, and the pay from these jobs aren’t keeping up with inflation. Rent for one-bedroom in a decent community went from $650 to $1000-1500 in less than 2 years!!!! GOOD houses are now near $500K while the broken down 100k homes went up to almost $300k in 2 years! Still, we aren’t getting a cost of living raise!

Yet, those who have ZERO pots to pass in should go get a job tomorrow? The help of other human beings, YOUR HELP is needed. Maybe you should offer your room to a homeless person with a plan to help them become stable. That’s far better than dismissing their needs.

caseyp
caseyp
1 month ago

Instead of America sending hundreds of billions of dollars to other countries, some who want to wipe America off the map and reduce what we pay then just 5% to 10% and put that towards fighting homelessness here only those who actually want to be homeless will be living on the streets. If we were to put the money that this recent administration has wasted in bills that did nothing than fatten the wallets and bank accounts of their family, friends and favorite organizations, homelessness would be a thing of the past.

kmari
kmari
Reply to  caseyp
1 month ago

if vagrants are breaking the law…after a citation or two so they are in the system then arrest them. They could go through some scaffolded program of incarceration that mandates detox then move to some graduated transitional housing/counseling/job combo which might help those that want the help but are caught in the addiction cycle and ferret out the truly mentally I’ll that require a different accommodation.

Betsy Whitfill
Betsy Whitfill
1 month ago

As we all know, homeless encampments exist in all major cities in the US, and probably minor cities as well. This is a national level problem, and requires a national level solution: residential facilities to house the mentally ill; major drug interventions (at all levels – personal, state, national) to rid us of this cancer; residential facilities to house those able to live on their own but not on the current economy; guidance, training and facilitating return to the current economy. On top of that, we need a US economy that enables everyday people to live in dignity, raise children in a wholesome and family oriented environment in which one parent is at home. There is more, but that can come when these basics are accomplished.

Kurt
Kurt
Reply to  Betsy Whitfill
1 month ago

Ronald Reagan said one of the most unbelievable statements was “ I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

How can we instead get the homeless person to say “ I’m homeless and I want to get off the streets” or “I’m an addict and Im powerless over my addiction.” ? Maybe the solution should be modeled after the 12 steps of AA.

Michael Yorba
Michael Yorba
1 month ago

We at Advance Community Fund are doing our part…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBI2hXIEDNE
This shelter is for Survivors of Sex Trafficking, Veterans and Homeless…

Chris Everard
Chris Everard
1 month ago

The HOMELESS need all the help we can give them. AS FOR THE VAGRANTS… It is this easy. ARREST THEM. Place them in JAIL. Keep doing so until they take advantage of the programs available to help them.

Terry Harrison
Terry Harrison
1 month ago

No homeless camp in Dallas history has ever been “closed”. They are simply forced to move to a new location.

Roland
Roland
1 month ago

I say get them their own section of the Metro Plex and set them up Some type of housing there and for those who just refuse to be house give them tents and allow them to live outside but only on that land. If they’re are caught in town loitering or panhandling arrest them. There needs to be some type of reprecution for their actions. These people just rome the streets doing whatever they want because they know DPD won’t do anything to them unless they are actually breaking laws. I serve this community in my Job capacity and i emphasize with them to a certain degree but something must be done because they will set up shop just about anywhere because they know nothing will be done about it. If you take a ride out to Frisco,Plano McKinney or Allen you don’t see this problem as much. I wonder why?