City Hall

With the Benches Gone from the Downtown Library, the Homeless Wonder What's Next

Until recently, if you walked along the eastern wall of the Dallas Public Library, you would have to weave your way through a gathering of homeless people idling there. Never gave me much of a problem, but apparently something went down because, as Rudy Bush noted yesterday, Downtown Dallas, Inc. quietly removed the benches a week and a half ago.

Bush talked to Downtown Dallas, Inc. head John Crawford, City Manager Mary Suhm, and Rev. Bruce Buchanan of First Presbyterian Church, who works closely with the homeless. All well and good. Downtown Dallas, Inc. owned the benches and had them removed, and they were on land controlled by the city. Missing was the people most affected by the benches' removal: the homeless themselves.

So when I was at City Hall yesterday, I stepped across Young Street and, sure enough, the benches -- and the homeless people -- were gone.

Walking to the north side of the building, I found a couple of men sitting on the planter.

"When they did take 'em out, all I thought was 'Man, they're just being assholes,'" said one, who identified himself as Jeffrey.

As for the drug dealing cited by Suhm in Bush's article as a reason for removal, he scoffed.

"Every big city in the U.S. has drug dealing everywhere," he said, then added, "If it is drug dealing, it's just marijuana."

"It's just to pick on the homeless," his friend, Joe, decided.

Back across Young Street, a half dozen men had claimed benches on the tree-lined pathway leading to City Hall.

One ("They call me Straight Up.") said most of people who gathered at the library were there to read and use the Internet to look for jobs, network, and shop online. The removal of the benches has had its desired effect, since many people no longer go to the library.

"It's kind of messed up," Straight Up said.

A couple of other men, who wouldn't give their names, traced the removal of the benches to an incident a couple of weeks ago when a guy got jumped. (They were apparently referring to this.) Now, they say, the library is a no-go zone.

"If you even stand on that side of the street, they'll damn near take you to jail."

So, too, the City Hall benches, which they expected to be shooed from at any minute. All of which leaves them few places to go downtown that' provide any respite from the blazing Texas sun.

"If the shades going out, you better hug it."

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson