Recent Rains Complicate Homeless, Litter Situation

Trash in the Trinity River
Trash in the Trinity River | Image by Trinity Coalition

Heavy rains in the Dallas area last week made things worse along a part of the Trinity River where a homeless encampment was situated.

Last Thursday, more than 2 1/2 inches of rain swelled creeks, concrete stormwater channels, and tributaries of the Trinity River, cascading over their banks and sweeping up debris in its path. In the Elm Fork area in northwestern Dallas, the homeless encampments along Joe’s Creek and West Joe’s Creek were caught up in the fast-flowing water, adding to the pollution of the Trinity River.

“It only takes one bad rain to undo six months of cleanup, especially when homeless encampments are involved,” said Greenspace Dallas CEO Rick Buckley, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The homeless encampments are not the only source of garbage in the area, as the forested location has been a favorite target for illegal dumping for many years.

Environmentalist Garrett Boone is worried not only about the trash pollution of the Trinity River but also about the safety of homeless people camping in the area. Boone has heard of stories of homeless people being swept away due to storms, per DMN.

His concern led him to post sizeable yellow warning signs in the most dangerous areas. The signs read: “Flash flood area. No camping. Severe danger. Drowning. Loss of belongings.”

Additionally, he and Greenspace Dallas hired Charlie Brown, a homeless community member, to help spread the word about the potential dangers of living along the waterways.

“This time we got lucky with people being OK,” Brown told DMN. “A storm like that can throw people and trash around.”

Boone, who has worked for years as part of the nonprofit Groundwork Dallas to help sustain and improve the Dallas Elm Fork Greenbelt, has previously expressed frustration over the City’s inability to address the trash problems in the area.

“It is unconscionable for the City and all of us to not do something. It’s frustrating the City doesn’t seem to have the resources to stop the flow,” he said, per DMN, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

According to a poll conducted by The Dallas Express last year, more than 58% of Dallas residents are displeased with the amount of trash and junk they have seen littering the city. Respondents indicated that the City is doing a “poor” job of keeping public spaces clean.

A poll also indicates that the majority of residents are generally unhappy with the levels of homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling seen around the city.

Cities such as San Antonio, which has adopted a “one-stop-shop” approach to combating homelessness, have seen positive results from the model. Haven for Hope’s model has been credited with a 77% reduction in unsheltered homeless in the downtown area. The model has polled favorably among Dallas residents but has not yet been established locally.

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