Homeless Partnership To Provide ‘System Accountability’

Homeless person | Image by Rawpixel.com

A local governmental organization is looking to hold Dallas’ homelessness response system accountable.

During the Dallas Area Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness (DAPEH) meeting on Thursday, newly appointed partnership chair Cara Mendelsohn, who represents District 12 on the Dallas City Council, said the partnership’s goal is to provide “system accountability.”

“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,” she said.

“I think we have to find … the [missing pieces] that connect that. And if it’s just that there’s so many more people coming into the system that even with increased spending, we’re not staying even at the same place that we were, then we need to acknowledge that kind of growth coming into the system,” Mendelsohn continued.

“But if it’s that people are in the system and they’re not moving out appropriately, or they’re returning, then there’s probably different interventions and programs and services needed,” she said.

Mendelsohn said the homeless response system has come into a lot of money, much of which comes from taxpayers, and that the funds must be utilized and monitored properly.

“Housing Forward and the City of Dallas received money from the White House,” she said. “There are some other large chunks of money that have been coming into the system.”

“This can only help,” she added. “Money doesn’t solve every problem, but it does solve a lot of them in homelessness.”

During the last meeting of the City Council’s Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee, officials discussed a potential deal with Dallas County that would give the City $10 million to build at least one housing or homeless services project in each of the county commissioners’ districts.

The item was brought up during the DAPEH meeting, but Commissioner Teresa Daniel said she was never made aware of the item.

“So my understanding is that there’s an interlocal agreement being worked out that apparently did not include elected officials,” remarked Mendelsohn. She said the item will go before the City Council in the near future.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the City’s lead homelessness response nonprofit, Housing Forward, recently received $9.4 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In February, Housing Forward was granted $22.8 million by HUD to combat homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties. The City of Dallas also receives millions in taxpayer money from HUD through Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) directed toward homeless services.

Over the summer, the HOPE Task Force appointed by Mayor Eric Johnson recommended dissolving DAPEH, citing alleged redundancies in Dallas’ homelessness response system.

Mendelsohn, who joined DAPEH in May, has maintained the organization serves an important and “unique” role in maintaining accountability across homelessness response agencies and nonprofits in the Dallas area.

After Thursday’s meeting, she told The Dallas Express that there have been no developments with the recommendation to dissolve DAPEH. It remains to be seen whether the City will dissolve the partnership, per the task force’s recommendation, or allow it to continue.

Meanwhile, recent polling has found that more than 80% of city residents are unhappy with the amount of homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling in their neighborhoods and elsewhere in Dallas.

While the City and the county are currently pursuing a broad strategy of setting up homeless shelters and service facilities in every district, San Antonio has seen success with a different approach: having all the services a homeless person may need on a single campus.

This is the strategy taken by Haven for Hope in San Antonio, which has been credited with a 77% reduction in homelessness in the city. Mayor Eric Johnson recently visited Haven for Hope, but it remains to be seen whether the tour he took will impact City policy.

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