A commission presented a report to the Dallas City Council yesterday with possible solutions on ending homelessness in the city. Some council members were disappointed and divided about what to do.
Britton Banowsky, the Dallas Commission on Homelessness chair, began the City Council meeting with a few key themes: "Current level of homelessness is unacceptable. All of us share the responsibility. We must make it a civic priority, which starts with leadership from our group and our elected officials. A system of accountability is essential. And finally, there is no simple answer."
The commission said the city must invest in solutions, and that homelessness must be a priority.
It’s suggesting City Council members approve standards for shutting down homeless encampments like Tent City, under Interstate 45, which closed three months ago. The commission estimates there are 60 more camps like it scattered throughout the city.
It also wants the city to adopt a "housing-first" policy, which prioritizes finding permanent homes for the chronically homeless before addressing other needs. Foremost, the commission is asking the city to help fund efforts to house 600 homeless people, including veterans, within a year.
These efforts come with about a $9 million price tag for the first year. The commission is asking the council to finance at least one-third of that.
Some City Council members were concerned these measures aren’t enough. While others were unsure of about how the city would pay for all of this, as well as where the homeless should go. Philip Kingston said homelessness is a big issue, especially for people who live downtown.
"The number one complaint that I get from both residents and and businesses is, 'how are we supposed to live, do business, play in an area of town that’s just disproportionately affected by this problem that should be borne by the entire city?'" Kingston said.
Council member Tiffinni Young suggested those who say “not in my backyard” are contributing to the problem, while Jennifer Staubach Gates said the city should stop pointing fingers and start working together.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said nobody wants to own this problem, but he’s optimistic.
"I think this is good that we’re doing this, and we need to be creative and we need to make sure that we’re doing the blocking and the tackling right," Rawlings said.
The homeless commission said long term, Dallas needs 2,100 permanent housing units that provide mental health care, addiction support and other services.
A final report from the group is due in November.