Homelessness and vagrancy have long plagued the City of Dallas, but what is the Office of Homeless Solutions (OHS) doing to address this crisis?
In fact, a recent poll by Dallas Downtown Inc. found that 76% of residents felt that homelessness was a “significant issue,” and that the problem in Dallas was similar to that in Chicago or New York City.
OHS Director Christine Crossley spoke with The Dallas Express about her office’s challenges and accomplishments in 2022, as well as her anticipations for the rest of 2023.
“We did a lot. We’ve been very, very busy as a City,” she said. “We’ve had unanimous council support and [an] unprecedented amount of funding from the federal government.”
Last year, the Dallas City Council approved a $4.5 billion City budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, allocating over $15 million of taxpayer money to the OHS.
Crossley said the OHS’s most significant accomplishment last year was the establishment of the Dallas REAL Time Rapid Rehousing initiative (DRTRR) — a program approved by the City Council in August that aims to rehouse homeless people within 12 months by providing rental assistance and other supportive services.
DRTRR is a temporary program that will not accept applications after the end of 2023. It is a collaborative effort between the City of Dallas, Housing Forward, Dallas County, the Dallas Housing Authority, and the cities of Plano, Mesquite, and Grand Prairie.
“I’m incredibly proud of how far we’ve come with that. Obviously, we still have a long way to go,” Crossley said, boasting that DRTRR has housed about 1,500 since its inception, and over 2,000 are enrolled in the program.
Crossley said one of her main goals for 2023 is ensuring the DRTRR reaches its goal of housing 2,700 individuals.
While this initiative concludes at the close of the year, other OHS programs, such as inclement weather shelters, subsidized housing, and support for nonprofits that fight homelessness, will continue.
Crossley told The Dallas Express that her other proudest accomplishments of 2022 include the launch of the HART program and the porta-potty initiative, although she admitted the latter cost the City more than originally intended.
“It had a larger price tag than we first expected,” she said. “But I think being able to continue it in any capacity is great.”
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the porta-potty initiative was launched by OHS in February to help mitigate unsanitary conditions in areas of the city taken over by homeless and vagrant encampments. While the original proposal claimed that seven porta-potties for a year would cost $23,000, the initiative ended up costing the City $105,726 — an increase of nearly 360%.
Crossley said that the biggest obstacle her office has faced is a shortage of “affordable housing” units, but she clarified that housing must be provided in conjunction with other types of services, such as counseling and employment opportunities.
Because only 1,500 of the more than 2,000 people enrolled in DRTRR have been housed thus far, Crossley said “another five or 600 people are ready” to move into housing units. However, Crossley emphasized the importance of “being very clear that [housing] needs to be attached to services.”
Crossley added that job training and employment opportunities are “absolutely” provided to participants.
“That is part of the services offered,” she said. “So if you are someone who wants a path to employment, that’s always encouraged. There have been studies showing that actually, it’s incredibly good for mental health to have a steady source of income and to have a job.”
“That’s not for everybody,” Crossley clarified, explaining that some people “just physically and mentally cannot do that.”
“But it is a great help in terms of someone’s development if they are able to do it,” she continued. “And that’s definitely something that is provided.”
While Crossley emphasized a need for more housing units, a report published last year by The Center on Wealth & Poverty at the Discovery Institute suggested that “housing first” solutions may be “doomed to failure” because they “begin with an inadequate diagnosis of the cause” and ignore underlying causes such as mental illness and drug abuse.
While the City of Dallas currently devotes resources to a number of homeless initiatives, many residents favor the model of Haven for Hope in San Antonio — a one-stop-shop approach to homelessness that provides support to the homeless in a set geographic area. This is something the City of Dallas does not have.
The City does, however, discourage residents from giving money directly to panhandlers. “Giving money without offering support could make matters worse,” the City has said.
Despite the services offered by the City, many vagrants continue to reject those services and willingly live on the street.
Polling conducted by The Dallas Express found that 63% of Dallasites believe that “homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling” continue to cause “serious problems in Dallas.”
Another survey found that 76% of downtown residents believe that “homelessness is a significant issue,” comparing the situation in Dallas to cities like Austin, Houston, Chicago, and New York City.
Keep up the good work. Perhaps this Mayor has a good approach to stopping living on the streets: https://www.foxnews.com/media/california-city-nearly-eliminates-homeless-population-zero-tolerance-policy-encampments