Dallas’ homeless solutions department will be one of the focuses of an upcoming internal City audit.
The City Council Government Performance and Financial Management (GPFM) Committee and City Auditor Mark Swann discussed this week the recommended 2024 City audit.
Swann’s recommended audit work plan presented to the committee highlights the IT Department, Park & Recreation, and Public Works as high priorities, along with the Office of Homeless Solutions’ (OHS) homeless response system strategy and coordination.
As it currently stands, Swann’s audit plan aims to discern whether the OHS is “making progress toward its strategic goals.” More specifically, the audit will investigate whether the “scattered site housing model [is] working to keep people housed” and whether the people and families re-housed through the OHS’ Rapid Rehousing Program in the fall of 2021 are still housed as of fall 2023.
The audit will also look into the procedures used to count homeless people and compare them to the procedures in other large Texas cities to identify potential improvements.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Dallas conducts a “point-in-time” (PIT) count of the homeless population every year in January. Nonprofit Housing Forward conducts the PIT count. Similar counts are conducted across America in accordance with a requirement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Council Members Jesse Moreno and Cara Mendelsohn, who serve on the Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee as chair and vice chair, respectively, specifically requested an audit of the OHS.
During Tuesday’s briefing, Chad West, council member and GPFM chair, asked if the audit will “include an analysis of how we go through our procurement [and request for proposal] process.”
“I’ve heard a lot of concerns from some of our nonprofit partners on it taking an inordinate amount of time to get their funding, which ends up costing a lot more money for them and for us, ultimately,” he said. “Will this include an analysis of that?”
Swann said that analysis could be added to the audit proposal that will go before the council for final approval.
Dallasites across the political spectrum support more transparency from the City government, according to previous polling from The Dallas Express.
“When government isn’t open and transparent, the legitimacy and credibility of its decisions naturally come into question,” Scott Gretak of Transparency International U.S. previously told The Dallas Express. “Transparency and accountability ensures that the public can trust that government is making decisions with their best interests at heart.”
Accountability in Dallas’ broader homeless response system — including the City government, Dallas County, and local nonprofits — is a primary intended function of the Dallas Area Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness (DAPEH).
“I think the thing I hear most frequently is, ‘How is it that the City and the county are spending so much money on homelessness?’ So much money is going into the system, unprecedented amounts, but yet it looks like homelessness is increasing,” Council Member Mendelsohn, chair of the partnership, said during the DAPEH’s October meeting.
She explained that the DAPEH plays a “unique” role in maintaining “system accountability” across homelessness response initiatives in Dallas.
While Swann’s audit will investigate the effectiveness of Dallas’ “scattered site housing model,” in which the City aims to put homeless shelters across the city, a homeless response model that has proven successful is the “one-stop-shop” strategy employed by Haven for Hope in San Antonio.
Haven for Hope offers housing and supportive services on one 22-acre campus in the city. This model has been credited with a 77% reduction in homelessness and has polled favorably among Dallas residents.
Mayor Eric Johnson visited Haven for Hope in August, but a similar model has yet to be considered in the City of Dallas. Meanwhile, polling from The Dallas Express has found that most city residents remain frustrated with homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling throughout the city generally and in their neighborhoods.