Dallas’ 214% Spike in Chronic Homelessness

Homeless encampment | Image by Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

Housing Forward, a non-profit founded in 2002 as the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, held its annual State of Homelessness Address on Thursday morning at the Communities Foundation of Texas.

Housing Forward’s stated mission is “to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in Dallas and Collin Counties.”

During the presentation, Housing Forward President and CEO Joli Angel Robinson outlined the organization’s community goals: “To effectively end veteran homelessness, significantly reduce chronic unsheltered homelessness, and significantly reduce family and youth homelessness.”

Each year the organization, with the help of volunteers, conducts a point-in-time count of the homeless in Dallas and Collin counties to assess the need for services in the area. This year, the census was taken on January 26, with the assistance of more than 850 volunteers.

From 2018 to 2023, the homeless population grew from 4,121 to 4,244, representing a 2.4% increase, according to the count. However, from the high of 2021 to 2023, there was a reported drop in the homeless population from 4,570 to 4,244.

Yet if the overall homeless population decreased according to this particular metric, chronic homelessness also spiked in 2022 according to the same data. In 2021 the volunteer census found 327 chronically homeless people living in Dallas and Collin counties. That population ballooned to 1,029 in 2022, representing a 214% increase.

Robinson said the numbers were a “clear signal that [we] needed a targeted intervention and solution-focused response for our neighbors experiencing unsheltered homelessness — the most visible form of homelessness.”

Robinson said that the organization deployed public and private funding, much of which was taxpayer money from the American Rescue Plan, to house 1,871 homeless people. According to the organization’s presentation, public and private spending combined for a total commitment of $72 million for the housing programs.

Robinson suggests those efforts led to a 14% decline in unsheltered homelessness between 2022 and 2023, reversing skyrocketing numbers she claimed were a result of reduced outreach to the homeless as government employees worked from home during the COVID-19 government shutdowns, among other factors.

Chronic homelessness was reduced between 2022 and 2023 by 32%, a trend Robinson claimed proves the program’s success.

“These findings underscore the importance of continuing to invest in permanent rather than temporary solutions. Homelessness decreased in areas where targeted rehousing investments were made,” she said.

The report also provided a demographic analysis of the homeless population in Dallas and Collin counties. African Americans represented 59.5% of the homeless population, Hispanics represented 14.73%, Caucasians represented 20.07%, while all other demographic groups combined represented just over 5%.

Housing Forward reports that its engagement has closed 11 permanent encampments — sometimes called “tent cities” — and permanently housed 1,871 individuals since October 2021. However, it did not provide any data on the total number of encampments in its service area.

The organization has set a target of rehousing 6,000 individuals by 2025, which would radically reduce the number of homeless in Dallas and Collin Counties.

Polling from Downtown Dallas Inc. has found that more than 75% of downtown residents continue to believe that “homelessness is a significant issue” in Dallas.

Similarly, a recent survey by The Dallas Express found that more than half of likely Dallas County voters view homelessness and vagrancy as serious problems.

These figures persist despite the City spending millions of taxpayer dollars every year on homelessness and vagrancy initiatives, and at least some suggestion by the data above that $72 million spent on housing solutions should result in more than 1,871 being permanently housed over a two-year span.

Despite disagreements over the best fiscal approach to homelessness, the addresses’ presenters agreed that the City’s slow permitting process is preventing “affordable housing” construction.

As The Dallas Express has reported, developers have battled with City Manager T.C. Broadnax over his office’s efficiency, which has dramatically slowed permits for new constructions.

Now, “affordable housing” advocates share that perspective and believe Broadnax’s mismanagement is fueling the homelessness crisis.

Director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative Dr. Cullum Clark argued that while there was a national housing crisis, Dallas in particular has underperformed.

“… [L]and use rules and housing market and permitting complexities that make it impossible or very difficult to build new housing or to maintain naturally affordable older housing,” he said.

“All those rules have been progressively getting worse for at 30 years in American cities. In Dallas, I think we can find abundant evidence to show, that among big cities, I’m sorry to say, an underperformed.”

Metrocare’s Chief Housing Officer Ikenna Mogbo agreed with Dr. Clark’s assessment and advocated changes to zoning laws.

“We have to change our zoning laws to allow for densities so we can have single room occupancy development,” he added. “I don’t think there has been a single-room occupancy development in Dallas in at least a decade or two.”

One potential solution is the one-stop-shop model of San Antonio’s Haven for Hope, which provides homeless services in a confined geographic area. Further polling conducted by The Dallas Express indicates that a majority of Dallas residents support such an alternative.

Note: This story was updated on April 17, 2023, at 3:03 p.m. to include additional information.

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  1. Michelle Stallings

    Seems like the recent uptick in businesses moving in from Cali has brought Skid Row to Dallas, but the homeless issues have been coming for a while now. It will only get worse with the high costs of housing across the board. Nobody can afford to pay rent.

  2. Betsy Whitfill

    It seems as if DE’s consistent recommendation that Dallas replicate San Antonio’s Haven for Hope is a viable and effective solution. Why, then is it not being instituted? I don’t find mind numbing reports that slice and dice statistics reassuring. Let’s end people living on the streets. Let’s not turn a travesty into a (“non”) profit opportunity,

  3. Robert Egan

    I’m not sure how “businesses moving in” causes increased homelessness, but ok. This statistic goes against the Fox News Entertainment messaging that only Democratic States have homeless people.

    • Mac Smith

      I think the message is that only Democrat controlled cities have homeless problems. Dallas fits nicely.

      • Robert Egan

        But Mac, the article references Collin County as well…fully Republican control. The point is that it’s not JUST Democratic cities. The issue is pervasive and one should not believe everything they hear on Fox Entertainment.

    • Anna W

      Mr. Egan I support your statement. Businesses are moving here because we are not a big Union State but Right to Work Laws are in place, that’s why they move here, low wages. We have currently a$32 billion surplus, plus they want the tax payers to pay more taxes. So we can fund Private schools, you think the homeless children will be sent to those schools, it’s laughable!

      The Dallas Express has mentioned the model that San Antonio has, “Haven for Hope’ several time. Dallas should follow this model, we have one of the largest VA hospital’s in DC30. The Congresswoman Crockett should be focused on this district. Have unemployment, crime and and a-food desert.
      What are our St. Representatives and St. Senator doing. They are building tons of low income apartments. It’s amazing that they put up Vote for me signs but nothing comes to fruition.

      Former President Obama challenged former Congresswoman Johnson but no results. Their City Council Members, do what? You have Paul Quinn college parents bringing their children to this school and I would Shake if I drove around the area and pray that my children get the education needed. This is a area that is a drug den. Voting is now in this area.
      Thank you Mr. Egan, this is not about 1 party. This is about elected politicians from both parties. Vote me in but don’t ask me to clean up my area.

  4. Charles O'Connell

    This article is a good summary of the data shared at the State of the Homelessness Address. But I wish your headline was a more accurate indication of the current progress being made. It is true that there was a 214% increase in chronically homeless individuals from 2021 to 2022. This was due primarily to COVID related restrictions that diminished outreach to the chronically homeless and their access rehousing and other services. Many cities across the country experienced the same increases. However the 2023 point in time count reported a 32% decrease in chronic homelessness, indicating the progress that has been made in the past year targeting last year’s dramatic COVID related increase.

  5. Mac Smith

    72 million divided by 1871 people receiving assistance is $38,000 per person. A pretty nice racket. I expect that at least half goes to the people who administer the program and lobby for more funds.

  6. Bill

    If and when you provide assistance to the homeless you simply are increasing how many homeless people show up to take advantage of that assistance. There should be absolutely no assistance for the homeless. As long as you are willing to give a handout there will simply be an absolutely endless need for that handout. The late great Sam Kinison had two lines about homeless people that are explicitly true. The first is that it should be legal to shoot the homeless because it might encourage them to make something of their lives. The second is that homeless people simply need to F someone that has a house.

  7. Tom Milbank

    Socialistic policies are hurting everything. Crime, drugs, homelessness, poverty. When will even those with a limited sense of history realize that Communism does not work and has led to the death of over 100,000,000 innocent people kiiled by benevolent leadership.

    • Robert Egan

      But the article references Collin County. It’s controlled by Republicans, not “Socialists”.

  8. Tom Milbank

    The reactive, solutions are bandaids. It’s the underlying socialized policies of tax and spend, the dissolution of the family replaced by government and a work ethic and morality based on Judea Christian beliefs being eroded that leads to these issues. Our currency is so debased that work overtakes raising a family for survival.

    Unless we stop this massive spending and taxation, we are doomed to ultimate destruction and the destablization of the entire world. We are now governed by a corrupt, despotic, tyrannical body of miscreants who only care for their own enrichment and the destruction of America.

  9. Jess

    Wonder how many of us would open our homes to homeless people. We are all contributors of this problem. We are will to take in a stray animal than a human being.

    • Anna W

      Spot on Jess. Take a stray animal to get medical care buy them a bed and give them food. But not a human!

  10. Jay

    The $72 million dollar figure included all housing for the homeless not just permanant housing. Temporary housing is much more expensive than permanant housing because you have nothing to show for the expense other than the gratitude of those who benefited from temporary housing.



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