Two-year mission: Get 2,600-plus homeless into supportive housing
In August, the Dallas City Council voted to participate in a $72 million effort to address the most obvious need when it comes to homelessness — putting people in homes.
The Dallas Real Time Rapid Rehousing initiative aims to get more than 2,600 residents into supportive housing in the next two years.
“The key to ending homelessness is a home,” Dallas city councilmember Casey Thomas said before the vote.
How? The nonprofit Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance will help those selected for the program with at least a year of rent and connections to social services needed to help address the issues that contributed to their homelessness.
Funding will come from private donations, and the Dallas Housing Authority will provide $10 million in vouchers. The city of Dallas and Dallas County are contributing about $25 million each in federal stimulus funds.
The effort, however, doesn’t rest just on Dallas’ shoulders. It is meant to be in conjunction with efforts in Grand Prairie and Mesquite, as well as Dallas County.
“Our work is not finished. This council along with city staff must now help launch a similar community-wide commitment to build and retain affordable housing.”Chad West
But two councilmembers pointed out that the effort will be for naught if the region doesn’t get a handle on its need for affordable workforce housing.
“We’ll have nothing to show for this plan in three years, in five years or 10 years, because we’ll have spent it all on rent instead of spending it and investing it in structures that could last decades,” council member Cara Mendelsohn said.
“Our work is not finished. This council along with city staff must now help launch a similar community-wide commitment to build and retain affordable housing,” councilmember Chad West agreed.
The homeless population has increased since the pandemic. In September, the Dallas Morning News reported that homeless encampments increased by 30% in Dallas during the pandemic, partly because shelters have been forced to take in fewer residents to improve social distancing efforts.
During a recent discussion hosted by MDHA, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot detailed other plans for helping homeless individuals, including his Dallas Deflects initiative.
“We want people who are homeless, mentally ill, and maybe some other low-level offenses … introduced to services,” he explained. “We want them to start off with medical services if necessary, health services, a path to a home — but to get well, to have a home, and to be a productive citizen.”
The initiative addresses petty offenses like criminal trespass (which often land homeless individuals in jail) by having police officers take them to the Homeward Bound treatment center, where they will be able to access social services, health services, and mental health services.
Last year, county commissioners approved a $1 million spend to renovate an unused wing of the treatment center, turning it into a diversion center.