The Dallas City council voted on Wednesday to shift an additional $1 million of funding to support nonprofits that work toward reducing homelessness and vagrancy.
The City has struggled to successfully address the homeless and vagrant population in Dallas and has had to deal with armed activists who have prevented services from reaching encampments.
In conversations with The Dallas Express, homeless people have expressed that Dallas “isn’t a bad city to be homeless in.”
Councilmember Gay Donnell Willis from District 13 presented the amendment for the additional money during the final reading and approval of the budget, now sitting at just over $4.7 billion.
“I move to amend the motion by reducing the general fund non-departmental budget and the pension stabilization fund by $1 million,” Willis suggested, “and adding $1 million to the Office of Homeless Solutions’ budget as a one-time funding to support and stabilize smaller emerging nonprofits that make up the homeless provider ecosystem, and increase existing shelter capacity.”
She claimed that funding would “extend the depth and breadth of the nonprofit community that serves this critical need of homelessness in our community.”
Willis explained that the program would be run by a third-party expert who would identify “where filling a funding gap will do more to achieve the City’s objectives about standing up our homeless population to put them on a path to a sheltered, more healthy life.”
Council member Cara Mendelsohn of District 12 seconded the motion and expressed appreciation for the efforts the City has made to address homelessness and vagrancy, “but the truth is, we can’t continue to do it ourselves, and we can’t even do it with the partners as they are today.”
“What we need are stronger partners,” Mendelsohn concluded.
Not everyone was without reservation concerning the idea, however, and several council members around the horseshoe requested additional information from Deputy City Manager Kimberly Bizor Tolbert, who supported the proposal.
District 6’s Omar Narvaez explained, “It feels good, it sounds good, I want to support it, I just have questions.”
Coming from a nonprofit background, Narvaez was concerned about how a one-time funding infusion might upset the nonprofit ecosystem, causing them to expand budgets beyond a sustainable limit.
Navaraez also asked, “What are we determining as a ‘small’ nonprofit? Because that’s kind of leaving it wide open.” Tolbert admitted that the City had not developed criteria for which entities might be eligible or not.
Tennell Atkins from District 8 emphasized that procedures would need to be in place to ensure that the additional $1 million would indeed go to assisting the homeless instead of getting “ate up” in administrative costs.
District 10’s Adam McGough expressed his reservations, saying, “The City does not have a good record in being able to pick and choose winners … and it’s concerning.”
“I’m going to trust that it’s going to work in the right way, but I do have concerns about this,” he continued.
Adam West of District 1 looked at the broader picture, suggesting, “It seems like no matter what we put into it continues to be a challenge for us, but as we continue to grow as a city and a region, the challenge is just going to get harder and harder.
“When we are putting this kind of money into it, there is an endgame here, and the endgame is to keep people out of homelessness,” West insisted, expressing his desire that Dallas “not turn into these cities in California or on the East Coast where there is this chronic homelessness problem that is just not being addressed.”
Paul Ridley of District 14 questioned why money should be funneled to small nonprofits instead of more established institutions with a demonstrated track record and infrastructure to provide care.
“I question whether the small nonprofits have the discipline and the rigor of for-profit businesses in that if they don’t make money, they don’t survive,” he suggested. “Anybody can start a nonprofit who has good intentions but may not have management skills, may not have the vision or the capabilities to operate an effective nonprofit.”
Ultimately, however, the amendment was adopted, and the budget was passed unanimously.