After armed activists confronted workers cleaning up the city’s growing homeless camps, Dallas has been forced to create a new security plan to ensure the safety of its employees.
The City’s new security strategy calls for a three-tiered system of law enforcement involvement. The first tier involves only city marshals with neighborhood police on standby, while the second and third tiers call for police involvement when activists are present.
These changes come after armed activists prevented city workers from executing a scheduled “camp cleaning” in July on Coombs Street in South Dallas, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.
“We’re changing the way we’re doing cleanings because we realize that was an issue,” said Christine Crossley, director of Dallas’ Office of Homeless Solutions. “We also realize that there are some people that might show up with guns, and I think we need to have a collective response.”
When speaking with The Dallas Express in July, Crossley called for a peaceful resolution so that the needs of the “unsheltered population” could be more effectively addressed.
“It was pretty clear to us that the armed presence didn’t understand why we were there, and we know from prior interactions…that there was no interest in conversation,” she told The Dallas Express.
In an August opinion piece he wrote for The Dallas Express, Steven Moitz of Keep Dallas Safe said, “It is the City of Dallas’ responsibility and obligation to address the growing problem of homelessness and vagrancy, and every day that our city leaders do not act, the issue becomes exponentially worse.”
“Furthermore,” he continued, “residents and business owners need to speak out and advocate for a real solution, just as Keep Dallas Safe has been doing for months. Our city leaders need to know that we support action and policy that will clean up encampments and provide sustainable solutions for those living on our streets.”
Typically, the homeless receive a 72-hour notice before scheduled sweeps. The notices tell them to move their belongings from the area. Whatever is left behind is removed by city workers, often with small bulldozers, claw trucks, and other heavy equipment.
Crossley said the City’s new approach involves camp occupants in the “camp cleanings,” which means they do not have to move from the area, and the need for heavy equipment is reduced. The Office of Homeless Solutions plans on providing camp occupants with equipment to clean their areas, such as roll carts, rakes, gloves, and trash bags.
“In areas where we can clean and not necessarily have them move, we can do that, and that’s what we’ll do,” said Marci Jackson, community liaison for the Office of Homeless Solutions.
Crossley said the goal of the cleaning is to maintain the “safety and hygiene” of the sites until camp occupants can be rehoused through a new program—which can often take weeks.
The new plan received a mixed review from one homeless man.
Matt Evans told The Dallas Express he believes the City’s plan to forcibly move vagrants from their camps is “horrible.” Homeless people “gotta sleep somewhere,” said Evans, who has been living on the streets for about two years.
When he learned of the new cleaning policy, Evans told The Dallas Express, “That makes more sense.”
It is unknown what the effect of the new regulations will ultimately be, but The Dallas Express will continue to monitor the efforts by the City and potential resistance by armed activists.