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.