New Joint Homeless Initiative Will Include Mayor, County Judge and Homeless Members

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Tuesday morning, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced the formation of a joint agency spanning city and county jurisdictions that will focus entirely on getting Dallas County's homeless population off the streets.

The Dallas Area Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness is the first step taken in the wake of the final report from Rawlings' Commission on Homelessness in January.

"When it rains, many homeless, they get wet, they get cold," Rawlings said Tuesday, acknowledging the weather that could be seen through Dallas City Hall's glass lobby doors. "They realize they're at the nadir of their lives. Whenever I see bad weather coming, that's the first thought that I have. Today, we're going to talk about addressing."

As designed, the county and city partnership will have an 11-member board of directors from the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, Parkland Health and Hospital System, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority and the Real Estate Council. The board of directors will get advice from two auxiliary boards, one of which will be staffed by community members including at least three of Dallas County's homeless or formerly homeless.

The other advisory board will have an appointee from each Dallas County Commissioner, Jenkins, Rawlings and each member of the Dallas City Council in addition to three at-large members appointed by the two legislative bodies.

The partnership will still need to be approved by both the city council and the commissioner's court. Support there may not be unanimous. "Seem like we have a lot of people on the homeless commission advocating for a permanent homeless commission," councilman Lee Kleinman told the Observer in a recent interview. "As opposed to advocating what we need to fix."

Rawlings, who served as the city of Dallas' "homeless czar" for five years prior to being elected mayor, said that the board's primary duty will be reviewing all federal and local plans related to homelessness in Dallas. "[Not having clear policy recommendations] was the big issue that I saw we faced," Rawlings said. "A lot of people were out doing good work but it was not coordinated and we didn't work together the way we should."

While the city and county will share the partnership's operating costs, which are expected to be about $50,000, Rawlings said that the board could raise money for projects as necessary. Some money for permanent supportive housing may also be available from the city's next bond package, Rawlings said.

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