Dallas Citizen Homeless Commission Gets to Work Thursday

Time is winding down on the homeless camp beneath Interstate 45 in South Dallas.

About 70 tents were nestled there Wednesday, near Harwood Street, in Councilman Kevin Felder's district.

The city will clear the area on Tuesday, Aug. 29.

"The city is dealing with the symptom, not the problem," Felder said, as he stood next to the Loop 12 bridge near Buckner Boulevard. Felder is concerned this place could become the next tent city.

Three military veterans have called the space home for the last month.

"We're free out here," said Teri Lyn, a Navy veteran.

"The problem is housing, the problem is lack of employment, the problem is opportunity," he added.

The problem has also been a lack of coordination between the city, local non-profit groups that serve the homeless and the neighborhoods that see the homeless and vagrants come into their neighborhoods, dumping trash and leaving human waste behind.

On Thursday, the Dallas Citizen Homeless Commission will lend its voice to confronting the homeless issue.

"One of the things that my commission needs to do is to help facilitate coordination among the many players in the space, to make sure that we don't duplicate efforts, and that the solutions we provide are done efficiently," said commission chair Kenn Webb.

Despite holding its first meeting Thursday, the 15-member commission is not even halfway filled. Seven council appointments have been made, while five more people are making their way through the nomination process.

Council members Casey Thomas, Dwaine R. Caraway and Tennell Atkins have not nominated anyone, according to the Dallas City secretary.

Webb does not think the lack of members will slow the group's work.

"One of the purposes of this commission is to to be sure that all citizens of Dallas have input in the process. That includes the citizens of all our neighborhoods. It also includes our citizens who are experiencing homelessness," Webb said.

The commission will meet at 4 p.m. at Dallas City Hall.

Lyn is cautiously optimistic that a new councilman and citizen input can end the ongoing cycle of one homeless camp closing and another one opening up.

"I don't have much faith in the government, but you can change my way of thinking," he told Councilman Felder.

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