Dallas homeless service providers fear a tougher proposed nuisance code may be directed at them as a new city-county partnership begins work on homelessness solutions.
The Dallas Area Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness was a joint creation of the City of Dallas and Dallas County to include officials from both government agencies.
“It's an effort to do a better job, to draw down more federal money and to use it to change people's circumstances,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.
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Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has been involved in the issue of homelessness since 2005 as a volunteer leader before he was Mayor.
“We are trailing the United States so badly on this and I’m embarrassed that I have worked with homeless for as long as I have and we haven’t made as much progress,” Rawlings said.
Recommendations from a 2016 Dallas Commission on Homelessness are among the strategies the new partnership will pursue.
Citizen groups and service providers are purposefully excluded from the partnership to limit outside influence in decisions but Rawlings said their input would be considered.
It has been 9 years since Dallas added homeless shelter beds according to Wayne Walker with service provider “Our Calling” on Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
“No one likes to see homeless people sleeping on the street or in front of a business or in a neighborhood but there’s not much we can do when there is no place to send them. Every shelter is at 100% capacity,” Walker said.
Our Calling provides food, showers and laundry to unsheltered homeless people. Walker said the agency served 10,000 people in the past year and the number has been growing.
Many of them leave their belongings outside the agency’s gate because they have no other place to leave things.
“We don’t have the authority to control what happens on the side walk, but yet with the nuisance law, they’re holding us accountable for what happens on the sidewalk,” Walker said.
Representatives of two other homeless service providers shared similar concerns about the proposed nuisance law revisions pending with the City of Dallas that are separate from the new Partnership deliberations.
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax confirmed the nuisance law review is underway. He said it is intended to address concerns from service provider neighbors but denied it is intended to remove the service providers.
“Absolutely not,” Broadnax said. “We want and care about everyone in our community but we’ve also got to have an eye and an ear for everyone’s concerns and figure out how we get them in the room and make that happen.”
Mayor Rawlings said the Partnership's challenge is to increase the amount of permanent supportive housing, emergency shelter space and services for homeless people.
“That’s the answer and then we’ll figure out locations and how that plays out. But let’s think long term here because that’s the only way we’re going to dig ourselves out of this hole,” Rawlings said. “We do not want to treat these citizens, these neighbors in a disrespectful manner. Now people have got to live by laws.”
Walker said the service providers are watching carefully for developments with the nuisance law and the new partnership.
“There's a lot more meetings than there is action,” he said.
Dallas voters approved $20 million for additional homeless facilities and shelter space in this month’s bond referendum. That money will be in addition to any new federal dollars the partnership can attract.