Downtown Dallas Park Turned Homeless Hotel

By Ashanti Blaize
|  Friday, Jul 22, 2011  |  Updated 4:52 PM CDT
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Main Street Gardens Park in downtown Dallas is a haven for homeless people and residents have had enough.

Ashanti Blaize, NBCDFW.com

Main Street Gardens Park in downtown Dallas is a haven for homeless people and residents have had enough.

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Main Street Gardens Park in downtown Dallas has become a bit of a homeless haven during the overnight hours.  Residents heading to the park for an early morning dog walk are met by homeless people sleeping on benches, playground equipment, or whatever else may be in the park.  The practice is against the law.

"Most of the benches are usually occupied by either sleeping homeless people or people just kind of hanging out, smoking, talking," said downtown Dallas resident, Jamie Johnson.

Friday morning, just before 6:00 a.m., NBC 5 cameras were rolling as a homeless man laid sprawled out on a wooden bench.  Not far away, another homeless man wrapped snugly in a blanket slept on another bench and a handful of other homeless men slept upright on the other side of the park.

"It is kind of uneasy, especially for young women to come down here, especially by themselves," said downtown Dallas resident, Koshina Tabasuri. 

If you ask those who pass through the park every morning, they will tell you what NBC 5 cameras caught Friday morning isn't even the worst of what they've seen.

"Usually you've got a couple laying under the pyramid thing at the little children's playground and definitely up here along the, whatever that is, the platform," said downtown Dallas resident, Carol Flores.

While NBC 5 cameras caught homeless people at virtually every corner of Main Street Gardens park Friday morning, there's one thing it didn't see-- a police presence.

"You look around now and you don't see anybody," said Johnson. "So yeah, its a little bit frustrating."

Especially, says Johnson, since sleeping in the park is against the law in the city of Dallas.

"We are aware of the situation in the park," said Sr. Corporal Kevin Janse with the Dallas Police Department.  "We are taking the necessary steps to hopefully curtail it as far as assigning additional officers out there."

For Dallas police, it's not just about enforcing the law anymore-- it's about getting the homeless in downtown Dallas the help they really need, so they won't feel they have to sleep in the park.

"We realize that just writing them tickets for just sleeping in pubic is not the answer," said Janse.

So now, officers will work with Crisis Intervention personnel. They'll even take take those found sleeping in public to shelters like The Bridge in downtown Dallas. 

Jay Dunn, Managing Director of The Bridge said the shelter has 300 beds for adults, and once those beds are filled, the facility has buses to transport people to other shelters in the Dallas area that have room. He said there are some homeless people they have had trouble engaging, but they are working to reach out to the homeless in the downtown area each day.

Residents who live near Main Street Gardens park say they just hope to see results soon, before the park's new tenants start driving folks away.

"We live down here, and you know, you don't want to be mean or rude to anyone," said Tabasuri.  "At the same time, it's kind of like, 'okay, enough.'"

Dallas police say residents should start to see an increase in police presence around Main Street Gardens park almost immediately.

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