Dallas Addresses Rise in Homelessness After Tent City Closure

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By Becky FogelOctober 11, 2016 11:02 am

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Homelessness is on the rise in Dallas. Advocates recently counted the number of people experiencing homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties: 4,000, a 20 percent jump over last year.

Earlier this year, the city shut down one of the largest homeless encampments in Dallas, known as Tent City. Stephanie Kuo and Eric Aasen from KERA in North Texas discuss how the city’s been looking to solve homelessness since then:

Eric: So the city says part of the solution to this are these tiny houses that have been built near Deep Ellum, the Cottages at Hickory Crossing.

Stephanie: Yep, the city and county, along with several nonprofits, built 50 cottages intended to house the costliest homeless people. These are the people who get put in county jails and use emergency services the most. The cottages follow the tenets of a “housing first” strategy, which homeless advocates have touted as the only viable solution to homelessness. By being provided a place to live, the homeless then would be able to address issues like health and employment. Advocates say these 50 cottages aren’t going to solve all of Dallas’s homelessness but it’s a first step.

Eric: There’s this group that’s been studying homelessness in Dallas. What have they found? What are they recommending?

 Stephanie: The Dallas Commission on Homelessness told the City Council in early August that homelessness needs to be a political and financial priority… it asked the city to help fund efforts to house 600 homeless people, including veterans, within a year. That’s going to cost about $9 million and they want the city to pay for a third of that. The commission will present its final report to the city council in the next few weeks. 

Eric: So you’ve been following this issue for many months. What are your takeaways?

 Stephanie: From what I’ve heard from advocates and local officials, solving homelessness can’t just be the priority of the nonprofits and the politicians. There’s a role for citizens. A lot of it comes down to shifting attitudes about homeless people –understanding what they need to lift themselves out of homelessness, rather than just being frustrated by seeing homeless people.

Despite that fact that Halloween or Thanksgiving have yet to come, stores are already breaking out the Christmas decorations. And for counties considering some new Christmas lights, Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton has them covered. He issued a non-binding opinion Monday saying county officials can use public funds on holiday decorations in public buildings.

After months of holding out on endorsing Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is sticking by his nominee – even after criticizing comments he made about sexually assaulting women in a recently released 2005 video clip. 

During a trip to Muleshoe, Texas, on Monday, Cruz told an interviewer, “I’m supporting the Republican nominee because I think Hillary Clinton is an absolute disaster.”