Aside from the coronavirus crisis, there’s another problem brewing in Dallas streets.
Community groups say the homeless crisis that existed in Dallas before the pandemic is still ongoing and seems to be getting worse.
The services that have been working to serve the homeless and help curb the homeless population have been forced to drastically scale back their operations due to lack of volunteers and city orders, leaving thousands of people in limbo.
“With this virus hitting the nation in the world, we are focusing on staying open because the homeless need us now more than ever before,” said Pastor David Timothy of SoupMobile Church in South Dallas. "Since 2003, we've been feeding the homeless and the hungry and never in the past 17 years have we ever had a crisis like we’re facing today."
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With just a handful of helpers, he served food and hot coffee to more than 200 homeless within just an hour and a half this weekend
But as is the case for countless other groups, continuing to serve is a struggle. Pastor Timothy can no longer bring the homeless into his facility for church services and resources are becoming more scare.
Volunteers across North Texas are also dwindling due to COVID-19 restrictions, a need for child-care with children out of school and quarantine.
“We’re not making light of what’s going on right now, these are difficult times but we’re going to get through it,” Timothy said.
Other groups like OurCalling in Downtown Dallas said their food supply is dwindling. Most of what they receive is excess and bulk product donated from box stores.
But with shelves emptying to panic buying and people gathering supplies for a long road ahead, executive director Wayne Walker said they've lost 80% of their food donations, practically overnight.
“We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to pay for food. Now we have more people showing up to eat every single day. It's really having us retool how quickly can we find resources, to meet these needs. The demand is growing,” he said. “We have hundreds and hundreds of people that come to us. We’re the only place in the area where people can come and take care of basic needs. Most of the services that we provide throughout the year we put on the shelf and are really just trying to focus on life-sustaining services at this point.”
OurCalling normally serves hundreds homeless with a hot meal, showers, bathrooms, and laundry every day in their facility off Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
But they’ve now required ban public gatherings inside the facility and are having to serve in the parking lot, with hundreds of people flocking to the facility. Walker said the city has provided 18 tents to set up outside and the non-profit has purchased picnic tables that are still being assembled.
"We’re trying to do more work, with less people and less manpower. With less resources and so it’s stretching us then in every way," Walker said.
OurCalling used to have healthcare providers on site like Parkland, which would bring health unit buses to the parking lot and provide medical needs. The pandemic has caused the hospital to withdraw those buses for use in COVID-19 testing sites, Walker said, so the medical services they used to be able to provide the homeless have disappeared.
The organization is also losing volunteers and have lost a third of their staff manpower due to quarantine and other reasons. If you are healthy and able to volunteer, click here for more details.
“With the population expanding every single day and the resources going down, we’re stuck in the middle. The city and the county consider us an essential service, if we don’t show up to work they have nowhere to eat,” Walker said.
SoupMobile is also in need of volunteers and resources. Click here for more information.
These two groups aren't the only ones feeling the pain from the pandemic. Here are several others that need help in one way or another, with links to more information on how to help:
- Austin Street Shelter
- The Bridge
- Salvation Army of North Texas
- Dallas Life
- Family Place
- Union Gospel Mission
All of these organizations are being hit hard and with the economy tanking, Walker said a lot of nonprofits are struggling financially -- so there's little money to go around.
“On a normal business day throughout the year they will see about seven to eight new homeless people every day," said Walker. "Now we’re seeing about 20 to 30 new homeless people that we've never seen before and more people are experiencing homelessness.”
In the meantime, shelters have lost hundreds of bed spaces to keep people 6 feet apart. Walker said the city has turned the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center into a shelter, adding 350 more beds.
But the convention center is running out of space every day, and Walker said they’re turning people away every single night.
"Every single shelter is turning away people. The people at the convention center actually have to leave every morning. They’re not keeping the convention center open during the day so a lot of those people are looking for a place to go during the day,” said Walker. “The most vulnerable population are the ones that are still outside. And have absolutely nowhere to go.”