City Hall

Dallas Mayor Announces Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Dallas will recognize a homeless awareness week amid charges of cracking down on those sleeping on the streets.
Dallas will recognize a homeless awareness week amid charges of cracking down on those sleeping on the streets. Blake Burkhart
On Wednesday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson will issue a proclamation declaring Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week for Nov. 12–20.

Since 1975, communities and organizations around the country have used National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week to bring awareness to the twin problems affecting so many areas in the U.S.

“It is important to bring the public’s attention to the needs of our city’s most vulnerable residents,” Johnson said in a press release Tuesday. “Guiding individuals to exit homelessness can be very challenging. I am very proud of the many organizations and employees who serve our neighbors with patience, compassion and understanding.”

Earlier this year, the Dallas/Fort Worth-based advocacy group Housing Forward conducted an annual census of the homeless population in Dallas and Collin counties, counting nearly 4,000 in Dallas and around 400 in Collin.

Those numbers marked a decline compared with 2019, with family homelessness dropping by nearly 20% over the three-year period.

Nearly a third of the homeless population in the two counties was unsheltered during the 2022 count, and households with children made up more than 18% of the total tally.

“In addition to the many social service organizations that work tirelessly throughout the year to help those in need, some individuals take it upon themselves to serve our community,” City Manager T.C. Broadnax said in Tuesday’s release.

“I strongly encourage residents to contact nonprofit organizations who need volunteers and donations, particularly this time of year,” Broadnax added. “Working in partnership with an experienced group is the best way to help a neighbor in need.”

Johnson’s proclamation comes not long after Dallas City Council passed an ordinance banning people from standing on medians less than 6 feet wide, a move largely seen as a crackdown on panhandlers.

Adam Bazaldua, the only City Council member to vote against the ordinance, has warned that the ordinance will lead to discriminatory enforcement, arguing that it contradicts the city’s efforts to deprioritize low-level offenses.

“Not only is it contradicting; it’s also counterproductive and will more than likely result in even more discriminatory enforcement than we saw with marijuana,” Bazaldua told the Observer late last month. “It was definitely taking steps backwards for our city, and I believe it to be regressive to work we were doing in the other direction.”

Earlier this year, as Dallas attempted to grapple with homelessness, city memos warned of armed activists at homeless encampments. “City employees have recently encountered resistance from activists and armed individuals at the site of homeless encampment clean-ups,” one memo said.

At the time, the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club, one of the groups that had shown up armed at an encampment in July, told the Observer that “everyone possesses a right to defend their home from those who mean to harm them.”

“There are over 3,000 vacant homes in the city of Dallas, but the prioritization of the city has been handcuffs over housekeys,” the group said in a statement.

Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a statewide camping ban targeting homeless residents. The law, which went into effect in September 2021, made camping in a public space a class C misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $500.

In Dallas, advocacy groups that work with the homeless population have said that the ban has made life worse for those living on the streets
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Patrick Strickland is the former news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's worked as a senior reporter at Al Jazeera English. His reporting has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.

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