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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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Dallas Panhandling Initiative Fails to Help Majority of Homeless & Vagrant Population

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Tyron Davis panhandles despite a sign asking people not to give money near 610 and Westheimer on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 in Houston. | Image by Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle

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Despite its attempt to discourage panhandling by offering assistance to those in need, records show that only a fraction of panhandlers were willing to engage with the City of Dallas’s anti-panhandling initiative.

After the panhandling issue became “beyond problematic,” as one city councilman described it in February 2021, city officials considered their options.

As reported in The Dallas Express, Dallas began a six-month pilot program last November to address complaints of trash and feces near popular panhandling spots.

In nine locations across the city, signs were placed imploring the public to report panhandlers to the City’s 311 non-emergency phone line and to donate to homeless organizations instead of handing out money directly to panhandlers.

Along with the new signage, social caseworkers were tasked with responding to panhandling reports so they could offer assistance like food and shelter via homeless service programs. The goal of this “Street Outreach” was to help panhandlers obtain basic necessities.

However, panhandlers who refused help were issued a citation to appear in court. A judge could then send the defendant to rehabilitation, help them with employment through city projects, or issue a community service order.

Since the beginning of the program, only five people have taken up the city’s offer of assistance. Social workers responded to 80 documented panhandling calls, clocking a success rate of 6.25%, reportedly. Of those five “success cases,” only three agreed to be placed into housing.

Of all the individuals labeled as panhandlers by the city, only an estimated 70-80% are homeless or vagrant, which could explain why some refuse help with finding housing.

Another possible reason is a lack of trust between panhandlers and the city authorities.

“They’re just taking from us – they don’t give!” one panhandler told The Dallas Morning News, remarking that the City had thrown away his backpack filled with important items, including his birth certificate.

Christine Crossley, the director of the Office of Homeless Solutions, told the news outlet, “We’re seeing more people who aren’t interested in the help. Now, for those who are, we’re going to talk to you.”

Vagrancy and homelessness are ongoing issues in Dallas County, as nearly 4,000 people experience some form of homelessness on any given night, according to the 2022 Point-in-Time Homeless Count from the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA).

In Dallas County, the number of “chronically homeless“—those homeless for more than a year — rose from 327 in 2021 to 1,029 in 2022. This is in keeping with a national trend; data shows that chronic homelessness has surged by 40% in the U.S. since 2016.

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Burnett Marus
Burnett Marus
2 months ago

A story about Dallas homeless and the main picture is of a Houston panhandler? What…. couldn’t the Dallas Express find any Dallas panhandlers to photograph for the story. Lazy journalism.

caseyp
caseyp
Reply to  Burnett Marus
2 months ago

I’m surprised the Dallas Express didn’t label him as an “alleged Dallas panhandler” They like to wrongly use the word “alleged” a lot.

Shelly
Shelly
Reply to  Burnett Marus
2 months ago

I had the same thought. Houston Metro bus and freeway to illustrate Dallas homelessness?

Kaleb
Kaleb
2 months ago

you must help yourself for you help others.

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