Mayor Eric Johnson said Dallas should get other cities to assist with its homelessness and vagrancy problem, advocating for a more “regional” approach.
During the annual State of Downtown event hosted by Downtown Dallas Inc. at the Moody Performance Hall, Johnson said many homeless and vagrant people whose last known address was outside of Dallas congregate inside the city because it provides them access to more resources.
Johnson described homelessness and vagrancy as a “regional public health problem” and said that other cities in Dallas, Collin, and Denton counties should share more of the burden of aiding the homeless.
“Quite frankly, we’re the ones who invest in the services,” the mayor said. “Dallas is the city with the compassion and the heart that’s building these resources and creating these rapid rehousing programs and spending millions of tax dollars to deal with this.”
“When our surrounding suburbs are not doing it, and in some cases, even may be encouraging folks who need these services to come to Dallas, and then brag about how low their tax rate is,” he continued.
Dallas Director of Communications, Outreach and Marketing Catherine Cuellar shared a statement with The Dallas Express from Deputy City Manager Kimberly Bizor Tolbert.
“The need to help those who are experiencing homelessness is not unique to Dallas as a city; it does not stop at our boundaries,” said Tolbert. “This is a larger issue we are all dealing with across all municipalities, and the response should be equally cohesive—not because it is too much for any one area to bear but because we share the responsibility for caring for our unsheltered neighbors and our responses should be equitable.”
Garland Mayor Scott LeMay agrees with Johnson’s proposal for a more regional approach but rejects his notion that Dallas is supporting the homeless on its own.
“Obviously, by sheer volume and size, Dallas probably has a larger homeless population than the suburban cities,” he said. “But the suburban cities [are] certainly struggling with it and trying to approach it in the best ways that we can.”
While Garland does not have a department akin to Dallas’ Office of Homeless Solutions, the city does direct funds to nonprofits that address homelessness and vagrancy.
“For us, it has made more sense to put funding in the hands of the people who know how to use it,” LeMay said. “They have a certain level of expertise that we may not.”
According to the 2022 Point-in-Time (PIT) count, there are roughly 4,000 homeless individuals in Dallas County alone, with about one in seven of them suffering from serious mental illnesses.
Additionally, rising rent costs in Dallas may increase evictions and cause more people to live on the street, as previously covered by The Dallas Express.
Mayor Johnson said he believes that downtown Dallas could have more residents and businesses by 2030, along with fewer vagrants and a lower crime rate if the city hires more police officers, stimulates economic growth, and adds more parks and green spaces.
“We just have to keep the foot on the gas,” he said.
The Dallas Express contacted the Office of Homeless Solutions for additional comment but did not receive a response.