As demonstrators demand more social programs and the coronavirus requires more social distancing, the city of Dallas has formulated a new plan to combat homelessness in this environment.
The plan calls for 300 new housing units, with vouchers in existing apartment complexes by October 1.
City Council member Chad West, chairman of the Council Housing and Homelessness Committee, said he was pleased with the plan.
“Even though we’ve seen an increase in homelessness by 44% since 2015, our housing production in new units has been flat. So, it’s a big step for the city to take to actually commit to doing 300 within a couple of months,” West said.
Longer term, the plan also suggests developments of around 50 units in each of the 14 city council districts for a total of 630 permanent supportive housing units.
The coronavirus could help pay for it with $16 million in CARES Act money. Voters also approved $10 million for homeless housing in a 2017 bond referendum that has never been used.
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“It plays into everything that’s going on with society right now when you think about public safety,” West said. “Public safety begins with a home. Everybody in the city, whether you’re Black, white or brown, our basic needs are the same. And we’ve got to have meaningful conversations now.”
Neighbor opposition to past plans is a reason for delays.
In 2019, neighbors were strongly opposed to a city plan for 100 units of new homeless housing on a large tract of city-owned land on Greenville Avenue near Interstate Loop 635.
Now, a new vision for that site includes a smaller number of housing units, combined with a new community garden run by Bonton Farms, which operates a garden and market in southern Dallas.
“I would love to see something like that happen where you’ve got a live work scenario,” West said.
The area’s city council member, Adam McGough, who opposed the 2019 plan, said he supports the new approach.
“We are actively working with community stakeholders and receiving a great deal of support. This is the type of innovative project that can support and engage our community while providing real opportunities for people to reach their potential,” McGough said.
The proposal also includes services on site to help the homeless people from returning to homelessness.
The city intends to arrange partnerships like the Bonton plan for the other 13 city council districts with developers who would build the projects.
“Research shows that if you mix incomes together, if you mix communities of color, of background together, everybody rises. With that in mind, it’s ideal to spread out our homeless population resources throughout the entire city,” West said.
The full Dallas City Council will discuss the plan Wednesday.