After Millions Spent by City, Homeless Camps Still Exist

Some homeless people in the Dallas area have set up camps under the interstate | Robert Montoya

Despite action from city government and more than $41 million spent since last year, homeless camps can still be found in Dallas.

Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance found 3,711 homeless in Dallas County in 2018. That number rose 10 percent to 4,105 in their Feb. 18, 2021 survey, but MDHA cautions the 2021 count isn’t comparable to prior years due to COVID–19 and a different methodology. They state their 2021 numbers are a “snapshot” of homelessness.

Of the 4,105 homeless they found the night of Feb. 18, 2021, 2,853 were in a safe haven, transitional housing, or an emergency shelter. Because the count was done during Winter Storm Uri, it’s believed 600 of the sheltered homeless would have been unsheltered.

Dallas City Officials created the Office of Homeless Solutions (OHS) in 2017, responding to a 32 percent increase in homelessness at the time.

“Our priorities are to prevent homelessness, protect persons experiencing homelessness, promote affordable housing solutions, and partner to maximize resources,” said Page Jones, City of Dallas’ Public Affairs Officers.

Jones said OHS’ goals and progress could be found in their Four-Track Strategy, which was proposed in 2018.

Track 1’s goal is to “increase shelter capacity” through “pay to stay shelter beds.” Standards set in 2018 measured progress by referrals, percentage of housing plans achieved and those housed, average stay length, shelter beds usage rage, and how many unduplicated served.

OHS’ 2021 report showed $10.4 million federal and local tax dollars were spent from Mar. 2020–June 2021 on Track 1. 1,828 homeless were housed in temporary shelters from Mar. 2020–Feb. 2021, and 1,290 homeless were connected to services and shelter this year. The “pay to stay shelter beds” program served 2,560 homeless through The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center from Oct. 2020–June 2021.

Track 2’s goal is to provide “Temporary Homeless Shelters.” Standards set in 2018 measured progress similarly to Track 1, with the addition of counting enrollments in programs like job-training and life skills. OHS’ 2021 report stated $520,000 federal and local tax dollars were spent from Nov. 2020–Feb. 2021, and 1,851 homeless were housed during Winter Storm Uri this year.

Track 3 is a “landlord subsidized leasing program.” Standards set in 2018 measured progress by number of units and “landlord partners,” average claims of risk mitigation, “average amount of rental assistance per person,” “percentage housed stably after six months,” and number of unduplicated clients given financial aid. OHS’ 2021 report stated $8.2 million federal and local tax dollars are being spent from Oct. 2020–Sept. 2022, and 337 were housed so far this year.

Track 4’s plan is financing “permanent supportive housing” for “chronic homeless,” and “rapid rehousing” for the “elderly, disabled, families with children, and young adults,” and “day centers.” The plan involved a $20 million bond voters passed in 2017, with 100 – 1,000 homes to be developed over 3-5 years. Standards set in 2018 measured progress by how many homes developed and how many living in them, percentage that “return to homelessness,” “Day Centers” made, and how much private money used. OHS’ 2021 report stated, after $22.43 million federal tax monies and local bond monies spent Dec. 2020–June 2021, 245 beds have been bought and renovated, and money spent for 180 more beds.

Despite these efforts, The Dallas Express discovered homeless still across the city southside, north, and under I-345 this summer.

North Dallas resident Rick Fresquez has spotted them too.

“We don’t have that problem in my immediate area, but I do see [homeless] at the underpass at Forest and 75…there were several,” Fresquez said.

Dallas City Council budgeted more than $11.5 million taxpayer monies for OHS in its Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budget. OHS funding grew to more than $12 million in the FY 2020-2021 budget, and $11.9 million is proposed in the FY 2021-2022 budget.

The Rapid Rehousing program is being implemented this October, with the goal of housing more than 2,762 by Sept. 30, 2023, at a cost of roughly $72 million. City taxpayers are paying $25 million of that. Most of the program will be managed by MDHA.

City council will consider the contract for this program on Aug. 25.

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