A resource fair was held at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Dallas on Saturday to help those experiencing homelessness.
District 8 city council member Tennell Atkins said his office began to organize the event with other groups over the summer.
“When I go to work at 8 o’clock in the morning, I got homeless people sleeping outside my door. When my workers come to work, they see the homeless sitting there and we try to move them out… say 'You need help?' But they come right back,” Atkins said. “We cannot do it by ourselves. It’s going to take neighborhoods, it’s going to take communities, it’s going to take block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, district by district until we put all of this together.”
In a 2019 address, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance reported there were 3,722 people in the city experiencing homelessness, of which 1,153 were unsheltered.
David King, chair of the Dallas Citizen Homelessness Commission, said “unsheltered” means a person does not have any form of housing nor are they staying at homeless shelters in the city.
“Our unsheltered homeless numbers have been increasing. If you look at our data going back from 2009. From 2009 to 2019, unsheltered homeless is up by 725% and it’s increased every year since then,” King said. “Our goal is to simply to change the trajectory of homelessness, so it stops going up and we start driving it down.”
King said the purpose of the fair Saturday was to change the city’s outreach strategies. The fair included resources such as mental health services, job training, and help with retaining forms of identification.
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“We have CitySquared MDHA here to enter people into the HMIS system. That’s the process for getting on what we call the housing priority list and being in line for housing voucher support,” he said. “What we’re creating here in District 8 is a security blanket of service that covers the district and provides people the access to services when they need them. That’s what creates the pathways to a successful transformation and sustainable recovery.”
Jonathan McKenzie Sr. of Dallas attended the fair. He said he lost his job about three months ago and has since lost a permanent place to call home.
“As I lost the job, I plummeted. So, it’s like my stock value went down. Right now, I’m pretty much on my back looking up,” McKenzie said. “It’s been different for me. I’ve never been homeless, so it’s a different situation.”
His sons are in the care of their godparents for the time being.
“It’s a little heart-throbbing, but at the same time… it’s worth it. Me having a home and my kids, it will be worth it. It will be more than a trillion dollars,” he said. “You got to crawl before you walk and right now, I’m in a crawl period.”