South Dallas Councilman Floats Vacant Properties as Solution to Homeless Camps - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

South Dallas Councilman Floats Vacant Properties as Solution to Homeless Camps

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    Councilman: Use Vacant Properties to Help Ease Homelessness

    A Dallas City Councilman has floated the idea of using vacant properties to combat homeless camps in Dallas. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017)

    South Dallas has a homeless problem and a vacant property problem. The councilman who represents the area has floated one idea to take care of both.

    On Wednesday District 7 Councilman Kevin Felder suggested that the myriad vacant homes in South Dallas could be used to provide housing to the homeless.

    The idea got residents in the South Boulevard Park Row neighborhood of South Dallas talking. Nearly a half-dozen of them gathered at the "tent city" beneath the Interstate 45 overpass Wednesday, pleading with the city to close down the camp.

    "We don't want them in our neighborhood just like any other neighborhood in Dallas, especially north of I-30. They wouldn't want vagrants living in their neighborhood," said Tammy Johnston, president of the South Boulevard Park Row Neighborhood Association.

    Johnston can see the camp from her home office. The space also offers her a panoramic view of the daily migration vagrants make from the camp into her neighborhood.

    "We've had an increase in thefts. We can't keep things on front porches. We're starting to see some of these vagrants pitch tents at night in alleyways behind our home," Johnston said.

    According to Habitat for Humanity's 2017 Map Book, Dallas has 12 square miles of vacant residential lots, most in west and southern Dallas. There are 4,000 vacant properties in South Dallas.

    According to the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance there are about 1,000 people sleeping on the streets of Dallas each night.

    This is not the first time Felder has tried to combine the solutions to two problems. The freshman councilman also proposed solving the city's loose dog problem by giving them to the homeless.

    Adam Bazaldua, who unsuccessfully ran for the District 7 seat, applauded Felder's willingness to seek solutions, but he said the idea was short-sighted.

    "That's not going to give us any long-term results, and, in fact, I think that it's going to cause more problems with the surrounding homes," he said.

    Bazaldua said Felder's idea could work for homeless residents who have received the help they need and are capable of renting a property and maintaining it. He said the people living in the camp under I-45 likely do not fall into that category.

    "A model like this would be really good for a constituent in District 7 that showed all of the drive and desire," he said. "There are a good amount of people out there in these tent cities that are not interested in us giving them opportunity."

    NBC 5 reached out to Felder's office to ask several questions about the idea, but as of Wednesday night, he has not responded.

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