Dallas Kicks Panhandling Program to The Curb

Dallas city leaders Wednesday rejected a program intended to provide alternatives to panhandling by arranging day labor and other services for homeless people.

The program had been in the works ever since the city closed the first of several homeless tent camps last year.

A census in January counted nearly 3,800 people homeless in Dallas and Collin Counties, more than 1,000 of them unsheltered. As a result, panhandling is common around the city of Dallas.

At the corner of Inwood Road and North Stemmons Freeway it is unusual not to see someone asking for money. Four were there Wednesday afternoon.

At the corner gas station customer Ron Brown said panhandlers who’ve approached him could be put to work.

“You can find something or create something. I do believe that,” Brown said.

The program was to provide $100,000 to service provider Way Back House to place homeless people in day jobs, housing and social services.

“I think we’ve got a great program,” said Councilman Rickey Callahan. “I do however want to make sure we’re not going to burn up a bunch of money on staff and administrative. I don’t think we need to do that.”

City Council Members at first discussed delaying the plan for more discussion by a committee.

“I think the idea of the majority of this being administration fee is not necessarily what we intended it to be,” said Councilman Erik Wilson.

Instead, the City Council voted to reject the plan and seek new proposals from outside groups.

“I’m not interested in throwing $100,000 to the wind and seeing what happens. Let’s put something together that’s actually going to work, that has some metrics, that has some thought behind it,” said Councilman Adam McGough.

The city can ticket panhandlers and even put them in jail, but they rarely pay fines. City officials do not want to directly hire panhandlers and give them city benefits. The plan is only to offer day labor as a transition to permanent housing and jobs through an outside vendor or agency.

Customer Sensea Jefferson at Inwood and Stemmons urged the city to take action.

“You never know who you’re going to help. Even if it’s 10 or 15 percent, it’s worth a try,” she said.

After working on the idea for a year, there is more delay for now as officials come up with a new plan.

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