City Approves New Money for Dallas Homeless Programs

Council takes two steps Wednesday in the Dallas fight against homelessness

Dallas city leaders took two steps Wednesday in the fight against homelessness.

After a scathing audit this week that questioned accountability and performance from past spending on homeless programs, the City Council approved more than $6 million in new money for the city's own shelter and service provider called The Bridge on St. Paul Street.

People with The Bridge accepted a new agreement with tougher performance requirements.

"We are going to provide credible self-assessment across the board of what we do with the resources we are blessed to have from the city and other places," said Casey McManemin, with The Bridge.

City Council members took turns telling officials they expect improvements.

"You don't need an audit to show that our approach to homelessness in this city is really failing rapidly," said Councilman Philip Kingston.

Homeless people are visible on the streets in many parts of Dallas, especially around The Bridge.

"There are unbelievable code violations. I go out St. Paul every day and the things I see out there are just unbelievable," said Councilman Rickey Callahan. "It seems we are just turning our back, closing our eyes and condoning the behavior there."

A tougher nuisance law approved by the Dallas City Council could hold homeless service providers to a higher standard.

People with the First Presbyterian Church homeless program called The Stewpot said they fear it is a target of the new law.

"It takes a public nuisance concept and law that is aimed at brothels, flop houses and drug dens, and applies them to properties including our church," said church official Bill Cobb.

Doors of the Stewpot open directly to a sidewalk so homeless people seeking service line the street and curb nearby.

Councilman Adam McGough, who pursued the new nuisance law, said it is directed mainly at problem businesses and apartment complexes and not the church.

"In the past we've done an ineffective job dealing with the worst of the worst," McGough said.

Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said the city will cooperate with the church.

"Our goal is partnership and working together to reduce and eliminate the criminal element in that area," Hall said.

People with The Stewpot said they will be watching how the nuisance law is enforced.

"The law will last longer than any particular person's tenure, so it's important to have it written the correct way," Cobb said.

Just a few blocks away, The Bridge agreed to expanded outreach in its new contract with the city, to help get more homeless people off nearby streets.

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