City Hall

Dallas Rolls Out Triage Plan as City's Homeless Population Increases

Housing, especially, helps.
Housing, especially, helps. Hannly Sam via Flickr
Despite the best efforts of the city of Dallas and the Citizens Homeless Commission, the city's homeless population is up almost 10 percent from 2017-18, with the number of unsheltered homeless in the city increasing by 23 percent over the same period. In order to quickly deal with the problem, city staff outlined a series of steps for the remainder of 2018 to get more people in both temporary and permanent housing and make sure that people without homes are connected with the services that are available to them.

If the City Council signs off on the final version of the plan in August, the city plans to do three things to help the more than 3,500 homeless people living in Dallas. First, the city plans to pay for existing shelters in Dallas to increase their capacity. Second, the city, either on its own or in a partnership with outside groups, will open temporary shelters throughout Dallas. The third step during a three- to six-month pilot program is to provide financial assistance to homeless people seeking permanent housing and to the landlords who might take them in.

The pilot program, according to city staff, will cost about $800,000.

The city will pay existing shelters $12 for each bed they provide as part of the program, creating an additional capacity of about 150 beds at the Dallas Life Foundation and The Bridge. Dallas' office of homeless services will assign the beds on a 90-day basis.

While 150 additional beds could make a decent dent in Dallas' unsheltered population of 1,100, the city also plans to open temporary shelters that prioritize veterans, homeless families with children, senior citizens, the disabled and the LGBTQ community. Those at the shelters would receive transportation, meals and snacks, personal storage and case management services.

Neighbors near any potential shelter site will receive 30 days notice before it begins serving clients, according to the plan. The temporary shelters will be rotated every 90 days to other locations throughout the city.

The plan is for the shelters to be placed in city facilities, schools, churches and other private property. City staff assured council members Monday that any faith-based organization getting city cash as part of the program would have to abide by city housing policies, which forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation. But council member Omar Narvaez expressed concern that any grievance filed with the city would take too long to be cleared, given that all stays at the shelters are temporary. 

"If you only have 90 days and you report it on day one, we might get there in 90 days. What if it happened on day 89? What happens at that point?" — Omar Narvaez

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"I really want to make sure that people, if they feel like they've been discriminated against while they're in these temporary locations, that they have a place that they can go to," Narvaez said. "If you only have 90 days and you report it on day one, we might get there in 90 days. What if it happened on day 89? What happens at that point?"

Narvaez's colleague Adam Medrano told city staff that he believes all of the temporary shelters should be in city-owned facilities, rather than private property.

Finally, in order to address what staff referred to as a bottleneck keeping people in shelters from getting permanent housing, the city will provide rental subsidies and deposit assistance to homeless Dallasites who meet the criteria to get apartments. The city, staff said, would guarantee that a tenant participating in the program receives payment, so that landlords might be more eager to lease to him or her.

The full City Council will be briefed on the proposed pilot program later this month. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young