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Dallas’ Office of Homeless Solutions Continues to Fail

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Tents under a bridge | Image by Shutterstock

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Although Dallas has been trying to eliminate homeless and vagrant “encampments” for quite some time, they can still be found under various expressways and in vacant areas around the city. Data shows the number of homeless and vagrant individuals is increasing.

The Office of Homeless Solutions is the city department tasked with overseeing the removal of these encampments and relocating their inhabitants.

The Office of Homeless Solutions (OHS) was established by the City of Dallas in 2017 to “prevent and intervene in homelessness by combating the complexity of homelessness with innovative and effective solutions.”

In addition, the office promotes collaboration between public and private partners to solidify a diverse resource portfolio to “adequately address homelessness.”

The OHS does not directly provide beds and shelter to homeless and vagrant individuals. Instead, the department directs taxpayer funds to shelters throughout the community that provide services to the homeless and vagrants, according to Jennifer Brown, the manager of public information for OHS.

The OHS has enrolled over 1,385 “unsheltered” persons in the Dallas R.E.A.L Time Rapid Rehousing (DRTRR) program to date, and approximately 700 such people have been housed.

Still, the number of homeless and vagrant individuals continues to rise. The Dallas Express reported that in Dallas County, the number of “chronically homeless” — those homeless for more than a year, also called vagrants — rose from 327 in 2021 to 1,029 in 2022.

This is in keeping with a national trend; data shows that chronic homelessness, or vagrancy, has surged by 40% in the U.S. since 2016.

Over the past year, there has also been a rise in family homelessness and vagrancy. The number of families experiencing homelessness this year is 822, up from 559 last year, according to The Dallas Morning News.

OHS continues to interact with those who are still living on the streets and in encampments. Brown stated that the decision to dismantle a homeless or vagrant encampment is based on service requests the City receives via the 311 smartphone app.

In some cases, encampments are closed due to reported instances of violence or proximity to a school, according to Brown.

When an encampment is closed, the OHS Outreach team, with assistance from community organizations and partners, offers emergency shelter and additional services in an attempt to relocate the encampment residents, including enrolling them in the DRTRR program.

The annual cost to taxpayers for cleaning and removing encampments is an estimated $1 million, according to Brown.

The City owns several properties geared toward serving those experiencing homelessness. Both Family Gateway and The Bridge Recovery Center operate out of City-owned properties. Additionally, two hotels and a former hospital purchased by Dallas are set to be remodeled into housing and services sites for the homeless and vagrant population.

Brown stated that OHS’s goal, with support from the Dallas City Council, is to have locations serving those experiencing homelessness across all 14 districts that are sustainably established and operated. She did not provide an estimate as to when that goal could feasibly be accomplished.

We welcome and appreciate comments on The Dallas Express as part of a healthy dialogue. We do ask that you be kind. Kind to each other and to everyone else in your comments. For more information, please refer to our Complete Comment Moderation Policy.

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ed lopez
ed lopez
1 month ago

Its’ time to stop wasting time and money on those already living on the street. Concentrate on breaking the cycle and focus on what and how people end up under the bridge and develop ways and means of prevention. Once they end up there it is too late to rehabilitate them.

Rob Grieshaber
Rob Grieshaber
Reply to  ed lopez
1 month ago

Not sure if you speak from experience or not, but I think you’d get a different perspective from many of the homeless that don’t want to be given up on. The problem is two-fold, prevention (as you said) AND helping those that are already homeless

Scott
Scott
Reply to  Rob Grieshaber
1 month ago

In an ideal world, sure. The fact is, most do not want to be helped and know how to game the system. Get arrested, get out the very next day. This isn’t 1990 anymore where the few homeless were genuinely down on their luck. Those days are long gone. Now it is almost exclusively drug use and worse. You’re enabling this behavior every time you give them money.

caseyp
caseyp
Reply to  Scott
1 month ago

Many families and veterans who do want help can’t get any because the system is overloaded. In the meantime they are turned away at shelters at night because they are full of “homeless” people who don’t want to work, mind subsisting on panhandling handouts and use the shelters as a hotel and daily meal.

caseyp
caseyp
Reply to  ed lopez
1 month ago

I agree that there are many homeless people who don’t want help but here are many families and veterans homeless not by their choice who do want help.Too many are turned away because shelters are full at night.

ROD Powe
ROD Powe
Reply to  ed lopez
1 month ago

If that is truly your logical reasoning…then you are out of touch with the issue of homelessness. I’ll invite you to walk in the shoes of a homeless person for one week, then give a reasonable response after seeing how the system to get people off the street is not working. Many of these people lose hope after dealing with social workers that don’t embrace their jobs…and treat them like a number.

Nick Gilliam
Nick Gilliam
1 month ago

Why not give each of the homeless a one-way bus ticket to any of the major eastern cities than seem to like them?

Dee
Dee
1 month ago

I don’t mind the encampments. I Do mind the trash everywhere. Dallas cty, use those tax dollars to hire cleanup crews.

Jane
Jane
1 month ago

This is not a failure on the OHS! Shame on this headline and these comments.

Rob G
Rob G
Reply to  Jane
1 month ago

Most of these comments are truly disturbing, Jane. Pretty cold blooded

Ctskip
Ctskip
Reply to  Rob G
1 month ago

It takes a strong person to lead and one that can and will follow through with tough decisions

Lisa Marshall
Lisa Marshall
1 month ago

The office of Homeless solution should be completely overhauled. The director should be moved to parks and recreations because she has not idea what she is doing. It’s a disgrace that a city agency in Dallas is CONTRIBUTING to the homelessness in our city. Shame on the leaders for allowing this to happen

Tamecia Henderson
Tamecia Henderson
1 month ago

The homeless I encounter daily are telling me they are being charged $15 a day to stay in the shelter. That is beyond what they can even be capable of paying! I was homeless in New York and they did not charge us a dime for a bed! The program was sufficient to get you into a job program, get adequate housing, and stay off the streets. Their department for handing the mental and drug addicted got them through detox programs. You have to get to the root of the problem and it’s a spirit of lack and poverty that needs to be bound and broken. Don’t neglect the spiritual side of this!

LFMinDallas
LFMinDallas
Reply to  Tamecia Henderson
1 month ago

You need to understand that charging for a place to sleep (which probably includes a couple of meals a day) is very HELPFUL to give the homeless person a sense of earning what they are getting, I.E. Breaking the poverty cycle as so many are wanting for them to do. Shelters I have worked with would give them 2-3 days at no charge and then offer internal work to pay for their costs and more. Then the next goal would be to get them trained and employed to earn even more (more independence). It is a well thought out process to help them regain their dignity and to get their life back in order.

Don’t believe what the “street people” tell you. They want everything for free without normal restrictions that go with a shelter environment. You will find that homeless people on the other hand are willing to work their way back into society and abide by the rules of the shelter environment.

Don’t mix the labels of “street people” and “homeless people”. They are very different groups and have very different agendas.

Last edited 1 month ago by LFMinDallas
Phinaldi
Phinaldi
Reply to  LFMinDallas
1 month ago

Do you mean the shelters In Dallas offer some work so those staying can earn their keep?

Stephen Schmitt
Stephen Schmitt
1 month ago

Maybe Abbot can bus them to New York and D.C.

Leanne
Leanne
1 month ago

I think we need to find solutions and stop bickering about whether it is a conservative or a liberal problem. It’s a humanitarian problem. I appreciate this solution from Austin. https://youtu.be/XI_oVMIgu6w It could at least get the conversation started in a more productive way.

Jill D.
Jill D.
Reply to  Leanne
1 month ago

This issue is simply exposing the breakdown of our society. As the article pointed out, this is not just a Dallas issue. Dallas data is in line with the national statistics. I’m a conservative and certainly think liberal policies have contributed but it is not solely their fault, nor is the Dallas department head incompetent because the solutions they’re proposing and implementing can’t keep up. I’m not sure anyone knows the magic fix for this growing humanitarian problem! Let’s all be patient and work together.

Jill D.
Jill D.
Reply to  Leanne
1 month ago

Thank you for posting the link to Community First Village. Hope dallas can do something like this! So encouraging!

Shirley
Shirley
1 month ago

I live in Addison is time for homeless people stop coming to our apartment in Addison circle computer room stealing coffee bring 5 homeless and 1kids in the bathroom sleeping the lady with little dog she got fibes to let homeless in she usually live here she got kick out for stealing.

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Dallas' Office of Homeless Solutions Continues to Fail - Brightgram
1 month ago

[…] Story continues […]

Charles Reynolds
Charles Reynolds
1 month ago

Some people choose to be homeless. Some stay out cause drugs. Some are on drugs and want to change. They are not vagrants and irrefutable people. No one can lump them up like that.
A few years back my friends and I loaded up and made sandwiches and drove to the homeless hotspots and handed out a sandwich and water to each person we could. We ran out and there were many more we could have helped. Luckily I had a running vehicle ATM. People were so appreciative and gracious about I that I’d love to do something like that on a much larger scale. I just don’t have the funds to do so.

Phinaldi
Phinaldi
Reply to  Charles Reynolds
1 month ago

Nice of you. Private charity may be coming back over bureaucratic boondoggles. Would be great if more citizens helped and had a direct understanding.

James
James
1 month ago

We need to draw a red line and say we won’t allow humans to live like this. It’ll take billions of dollars but we as the wealthiest country in the history of the world, have to take a stand and say we won’t allow it anymore. Provide the resources (social, medical, mental health, drug, etc…), but disallow people from throwing trash, defecating in the middle of the street, throwing used needles on the ground, etc…. This should be a part of the next presidential election imo.

Phinaldi
Phinaldi
Reply to  James
1 month ago

Working backwards: yes, disallow trashing, dumping, littering, vandalism. Stiff penalties for property owners allowing vagrants, criminals, homeless to use and abuse their empty properties. This is a huge problem. Alleyways infested w/refuse are a huge and growing problem.

A scaled CCC style solution might do. Civic work projects, training and room and board for the able, and rehab and healthcare first for the bad addicts/disabled/mentally ill. But enabling and subsidizing this lifestyle? No.

For the dude who sleeps in the median at an intersection at Number and Columbia and panhandles there day after day, week after week, year after year? Jail or inpatient. Worth the investment either way, before somebody accidentally cracks his head open like a walnut with his car and has to live with that forever. No law against sleeping under a stop sign in a median? Make one.

For the predators among the homeless who live by crimes large and small? Pump up the volume on penalties relative to other petty, victimless crimes.

Allocate more resources to cleaning up all the way around.

James
James
Reply to  Phinaldi
1 month ago

I couldn’t agree more. This is the way!