Gov. Abbott, Austin Leaders Throw Dallas Into Debate Over Homeless Camping

Dallas does not allow camping in public places without a permit

For months, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Austin City Council have sparred over a city ordinance that allows homeless people to camp and panhandle in most public places throughout their downtown.

Now, Dallas finds itself squarely in the middle of the debate, as both sides in Austin point to Dallas to justify their actions.

Dallas does not allow camping in public places without a permit. And in recent years, the city has taken steps to clear out large homeless camps that have popped up near the downtown area.

But Dallas has a much larger count of unsheltered homeless people.

Hundreds of them may be off the street during the day in Dallas at homeless service centers, including "Our Calling."

Wayne Walker is the director at Our Calling.

"Dallas' problem is much worse than any other city in the state for sure. Our homeless population is growing faster than 95% of the country. We have the largest homeless population in the South," Walker said.

Our Calling provides meals, laundry, counseling and other services during the day for people who have nowhere to stay at night.

On Twitter and in an interview with NBC affiliate KXAN, Abbott noted during a recent trip to Dallas, he saw "zero homeless laying around or camping on sidewalks" and "no feces and no used needles" on the ground, a claim he's repeatedly made about the situation in Austin.

"They have more homeless in Dallas than they have in Austin," Abbott said. "But because they have an orderly process, they go about making sure that what's going on in downtown Austin is not taking place in downtown Dallas."

In response to Abbott's remarks, Austin Mayor Steve Adler pointed out the Dallas homeless population is growing at a higher rate than Austin's.

"I'm not picking on Dallas because cities across the state and across the country are dealing with this challenge," Adler told KXAN. "It is true that in Austin we're seeing it now a little more than what is being seen, perhaps, in Dallas. But the answer to that is not to hide it. The answer to that is to house these folks."

That has been a goal in Dallas too. Dallas voters approved $20 million for homeless housing in a 2017 bond referendum, but none of the money has been spent as city officials debate locations.

Our Calling tracks where homeless people have established past camps in Dallas.

"It's everywhere. It's a city-wide problem. We and Austin do not have the infrastructure to meet the needs of our growing impoverished community," Walker said.

Minimum wage workers are priced out of rising Dallas rent, Walker said.

"So we have a great economy right now, but our work force just can't afford our housing," he said.

Abbott has said if Austin does not reverse its camping ordinance by Nov. 1, he would use state resources to go into the areas where homeless camps have popped up and clear them.

Several Austin City Council members have recently expressed some willingness to further restrict where camping is allowed, but don't appear to support an all out ban.

Contact Us