City Hall

No, City Says, Dallas Is Not Being Flooded with Homeless New Yorkers

False statistics were first propagated by conservative media outlets.
False statistics were first propagated by conservative media outlets. Getty Images
If you were concerned about recent media reports that New York City is busing hundreds of homeless people to Dallas, don’t be. They’re lies.

That’s according to the City of Dallas, which attempted to dispel the rumors in a memo released late Friday. City staff called the New York City Human Resources Administration and learned that only a single homeless family has been sent to Dallas-Fort Worth and that New York didn’t pay to transport them. It paid their rent.

The rumors originated from an article published in the New York Post detailing the program and were propagated by local conservative media outlets using invented statistics.

“If anything, there is a cautionary tale here for such sensational stories. They are to be taken with a huge heaping helping of salt,” wrote David Gruber, spokesman for the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, in an email.

The story appears to have originated with an article published in the Post in late October, headlined “NYC secretly exports homeless to Hawaii and other states without telling receiving pols.” The New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which also owns Fox News.

The article included a map that showed only 10 families had been sent to Texas. That didn’t stop a radio station in San Antonio from claiming two weeks later that “New York City Plans to Ship 1200 Homeless People to Texas” in an anonymous article posted on its website.

“If anything, there is a cautionary tale here for such sensational stories. They are to be taken with a huge heaping helping of salt.” — David Gruber

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The source cited for that scoop? Gruber’s own organization.

“The 1,200 number was entirely made up,” Gruber wrote, and added, “Someone dropped the 0 from the end of 12,000 and claimed that 1,200 were shipped to Texas.”

That article has since been scrubbed from the station’s website. The station is WOAI-AM 1200, the flagship station for the national media conglomerate iHeartMedia, which is based in San Antonio and is home to conservative talk radio personalities Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

No one at WOAI could be reached for comment.

On Nov. 6, newly elected city councilman Chad West posted a link on Facebook to coverage of the New York Post story by a San Antonio CBS affiliate and said that city staff were attempting to find out “how many individuals they plan to send to Dallas, when they plan to send them, and where they will physically end up in the City.”

The city confirmed the Post’s reporting: only one family had been relocated to DFW. A city representative did not respond to questions from the Observer regarding how much staff time was spent researching and drafting the memo.

The family was part of a New York City program that pays one year of rent up front to homeless families that can demonstrate that they will not end up back on the streets. According to the program’s website, families are only eligible if their rent does not exceed 50% of their income.

The program has helped 5,000 families and cost New York nearly $90 million.

It has little in common with programs around the country that offer homeless people one-way bus tickets to reconnect with their families or other out-of-state resources. A 2017 Guardian investigation found that these programs have little oversight and often mixed results. While some recipients credited the program with turning their lives around, others soon returned to the city that paid for them to leave.

Dallas does not have such a busing program, but New York does. Perhaps Dallas will have a chance to learn about it.

According to the Friday memo, it "intends to engage in further conversations" with New York and "partner on legislative items" related to homelessness.
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Lucas Manfield is an editorial fellow at the Observer. He's a former software developer and a recent graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
Contact: Lucas Manfield