The Board of Directors for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday voted to restrict visitors to the airport to “authorized users,” a move aimed at removing hundreds of homeless people who have camped out in baggage claim areas in recent weeks.
On recent cold nights, homeless people have camped out in Terminal A, where a DART line connects to Dallas, forcing passengers to pass through a gauntlet of people sleeping in the hallways.
Last week, one passenger from Midlothian, Deborah Schwan, said she was accosted and threatened by a barefoot homeless man.
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"He was screaming vulgarities in a very angry voice,” Schwan said.
Two days later, airport police started greeting the homeless as they got off DART trains and referring them to shelters instead.
But because the airport is a public facility, and with no policy in place, officers had no authority to forcibly kick the homeless out, officials said.
"We're just not the right place to be a shelter,” airport CEO Sean Donohue told board members.
He said airport police would deal with the homeless compassionately.
"We're not interested in arresting anybody," he said. "Arresting the homeless does not add any value whatsoever. So this isn't an ability for us to draw a line in the sand. That's not how we've been managing it and won't be how we manage it moving forward. But we do need the authority."
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who’s also an airport board member, seconded Donohue's comments.
"Our homeless population needs lots of services and we can't deliver that here," Price said in an interview. "And this is about public safety too. We're here to serve citizens who are ticketed and their families who are picking them up. It's a fine balancing act but I think this is a good move."