Council Members Talk ‘One-Stop-Shop’ Homeless Fix

Homeless person holds a cardboard house
Homeless person holds a cardboard house | Image by Fuss Sergey/Shutterstock

The “one-stop-shop” homeless services model appears to be gaining support from some Dallas City Council members.

During a Tuesday event hosted by the Metroplex Civic & Business Association, Council Members Jesse Moreno (District 2) and Cara Mendelsohn (District 12) shared their thoughts on bringing the potential solution to Dallas, expressing support for a singular facility that all homeless people could go to for help.

Moreno and Mendelsohn serve as chair and vice chair of the Housing & Homelessness Solutions Committee, respectively.

“If you saw someone on the street and they said, ‘I’m homeless, and I need help,’ do you know where to send them right now? Mostly, people don’t,” Mendelsohn said. “So this idea of a one-stop-shop means we can all know that they should go to this place. … I’ve been jokingly calling it Dallas Hope.”

“[For] every single person who’s homeless, the answer could be, ‘Go to Dallas Hope,'” she said.

Mendelsohn said the facility could enter the person into the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), provide them with a safe place to stay, and connect them with the other services they might need.

“I don’t think there’s an idea to get rid of every nonprofit in the city,” she explained. “But maybe we can send people to one place.”

After registering at the facility, staff could help connect those who are homeless to other organizations depending on their specific needs.

For example, a homeless family with children that was recently evicted would have a very different path back to housing than a man who has been a vagrant for years and struggles with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Mendelsohn said one group with the power to launch such a “one-stop-shop” facility could be the Dallas Area Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness (DAPEH).

“This group is a partnership between the City and the county. It has the ability to tax [and] to hold land, and it could do some of these things,” she said.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Mendelsohn took over as chair of DAPEH last summer and has spearheaded an effort to take full advantage of the work the partnership could be doing in the fight against homelessness.

One of DAPEH’s responsibilities is to maintain accountability across the various homelessness response organizations in Dallas.

Mendelsohn said that Housing Forward should continue its work because it receives taxpayer funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as the local “Continuum of Care.”

As previously covered by DX, Housing Forward employs the Housing First model required by HUD — a strategy that has been criticized for not addressing the deeper causes behind homelessness and vagrancy.

Still, Mendelsohn said Dallas also needs a different approach.

“But the rest of homelessness that isn’t really being prioritized … that needs to come from another group, and I think it’s [DAPEH] in conjunction with the City,” she said. “But there’s a mentality that has to change. … I say ‘compassion plus enforcement.’ We have done an extraordinary job on compassion. … We’re doing a terrible job on enforcement.”

Moreno added that The Bridge was initially launched to serve as a “navigation center” to “point people to our various providers,” which would have functioned like the “one-stop-shop” location Mendelsohn described.

However, The Bridge has become more of an emergency shelter facility. Moreno said he believes the “one-stop-shop” model could work in Dallas if managed correctly.

As previously covered by DX, the “one-stop-shop” model has been credited with a 77% reduction in unsheltered homelessness in downtown San Antonio through the hard work of the non-profit organization Haven for Hope.

However, a key difference between Haven for Hope and the model described by the council members is that Haven for Hope offers all the supportive services a homeless person may need on a single campus rather than functioning as a “navigation center” that connects people to services at various other locations.

Some private stakeholders in Dallas are working to bring the Haven for Hope version of the “one-stop-shop” model to the city, but it remains to be seen whether that effort will find support from local officials.

The “one-stop-shop” model is favored by Dallas residents, according to prior polling conducted by DX. Additional polling has found that Dallasites remain dissatisfied with the state of homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling throughout the city.

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