Dallas City Council Member Jesse Moreno said homelessness was the “number one” complaint he hears about from residents and the City must pursue options outside of Housing First to effectively tackle the problem.
Moreno (District 2) chairs the Housing & Homelessness Solutions Committee. He discussed the issue of homelessness with the Metroplex Civic & Business Association (MCBA) alongside Council Member Cara Mendelsohn (District 12) last week.
“Homelessness is probably the number one [issue] that I [hear] from my constituents, from business owners, not only from my district but across the city,” said Moreno.
He said that as a small business owner himself, he knows how concerning homelessness can be.
“I’ve been impacted by homelessness, just like everyone in this room or the next,” he said. “An individual coming to my door, knocking at 4:00 a.m. — my wife about to open the door, not knowing what to expect — or loitering happening in front of my business.”
Moreno said he wanted to chair the Housing & Homelessness Solutions Committee so he would have the “opportunity to really tackle one of the biggest issues in Dallas.”
Figures released by Housing Forward indicate homelessness is on the decline in Dallas. However, Moreno said these numbers do not align with what he sees around the city and what he’s hearing from his constituents.
“I see more unsheltered individuals on the streets, even though we see data and numbers from different agencies coming in saying we are having a reduction in unsheltered individuals,” he said. “I just don’t see it.”
Moreno said that in order for the City to “move the needle” on homelessness, officials must have an accurate understanding of the state of homelessness in Dallas.
One of Moreno’s “biggest struggles” has been trying to get staff to “work outside of just one solution.”
“That one solution for far too long has been Housing First,” he said.
Moreno explained that while he supports Housing First, he does not believe it is the best approach for every situation, as previously covered by DX.
Other analysts and homelessness policy experts have criticized the “one-size-fits-all” implementation of Housing First as a purported solution, claiming that simply putting individuals into housing fails to address the deeper roots of homelessness.
However, Moreno said there has been a lack of willingness on the part of the Dallas City Council to take a harder stance against homelessness. While he and Mendelsohn have been largely aligned on the issue, they are only two council members at the 15-member horseshoe, which includes the mayor.
“I think that they’re sometimes afraid of being labeled either NIMBY or inhumane because they’re trying to move unsheltered individuals off our streets,” said Moreno.
He encouraged Dallas residents and business owners impacted by homelessness to come to City Hall and make their voices heard by speaking to the council during public comment.
“I understand the struggles and the financial impact of having to clean up an encampment or getting cited by our own City department because there’s bulky trash left behind or having to clean up feces,” he said. “That’s not fair to the constituent or the business owner.”
During a recent special called meeting of the Housing & Homelessness Solutions Committee, Moreno directed staff to develop a plan for the implementation of “sanctioned encampments” as a first step to getting people off the street.
Moreno and Mendelsohn indicated during the MCBA event that a “one-stop-shop” model could help Dallas, as it would provide a single location for homeless people to go to get connected with the specific services they need.
“If you saw someone on the street and they said, ‘I’m homeless, and I need help,’ do you know where to send them right now? Mostly, people don’t,” said Mendelsohn, as previously covered by DX.
“This idea of a one-stop-shop means we can all know that they should go to this place,” she said.
Some local stakeholders are working to bring the one-stop-shop model to Dallas, but it remains to be seen whether that effort will find support from local officials.
The “one-stop-shop” model is favored by Dallas residents, according to prior polling by DX.