The City of Dallas Thursday promised help for homeowners threatened with fines over trash, including used syringes and human waste, left by homeless people in the alley behind their homes.
After NBC 5 stories about the situation Wednesday, people from the Dallas Office of Homeless Solutions visited the alley Thursday, making arrangements for a hazardous material clean up.
"That's good. And I'll do the rest. I've been doing it for 12 years," said neighbor Oscar Gonzalez.
The City of Dallas requires neighboring property owners to maintain alleys, even if they have no direct access to the passageway.
This alley behind the 2000 block of Shortal Drive near Buckner Boulevard and Bruton Road in Pleasant Grove is never used by neighbors or garbage trucks as is the case with other Dallas alleys.
Gonzalez said he and his neighbors have always mowed their side of the alley, but over the past month, homeless people began camping in there. He said they put up fences, blocking the neighbors from coming in. When they did get through, there was a mountain of hazardous trash.
"We don't want to touch this. We don't know what they have," he said. "We called the police. We called the city and we need help."
Initially, the city send code enforcement inspectors who issued warning notices to the property owners, ordering them to clean up the mess themselves within seven days or face big fines.
The city visitors Thursday from the office of Homeless Solutions said a contractor will be hired quickly to remove the trash before neighbors are fined. City officials could not say exactly when the clean up will occur
"I hope they come. I hope they keep their word and I hope they keep their promise," said homeowner Kenneth Harper. "They need to figure out why they go to the alley. Why is that the certain place they hang out at?"
Several homeless people were seen late Thursday moving things from the alley including bicycles and a shopping cart full of belongings.
The City of Dallas declined requests for an interview about the issue Thursday but spokesperson Roxana Rubio issued the following statement by email:
"Currently, the Office of Homeless Solutions (OHS) handles cleanup of homeless encampments on public property and Code handles cleanup of homeless encampments on private property. In the instance of the 2000 block of Shortal, OHS will provide assistance to clean up any potentially hazardous material since this is an extreme circumstance. OHS is always involved in engaging with persons experiencing homelessness regardless of where an encampment is located with a goal of connecting them to wraparound services."
"OHS and Code are currently working on a plan to create a unit within Code that will handle homeless encampment clean ups on private property, to resolve the need for property owners to handle the remediation themselves. It's important for property owners to know that if overgrown vegetation is not kept up, it has the potential to become an encampment site. A property owner owns up to the center of the alleyway and is responsible for keeping the area in compliance to ensure emergency or sanitation vehicles can access the area if needed."
"Homeowners are in the best position of leadership to notify the City of these types of concerns by calling 311.