In January, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance led its annual homeless count. The final numbers aren’t in, but advocates say they expect the numbers should be similar to last year’s – including the fact that in Dallas, the homeless population is disproportionately black.
Advocates believe closing that racial gap requires hard conversations and an uncomfortable look into Dallas’ past.
‘You can’t talk about homelessness without talking about race’
Over the past year, the city of Dallas has gradually shut down the homeless encampments near Fair Park – where hundreds lived under highway bridges. Cindy Crain is the CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and a member of the KERA Community Advisory Board. Her organization spearheaded those closures. She’s been working with the homeless for years, and yet, some things still surprise her.
“It was when the Coombs encampment was closed. I asked everyone if I could take their picture, and they all gathered up and we took a group photo,” Crain said. “And it was stunning because it was such a blatantly, obviously and extraordinary amount of persons of color, black folks of Dallas, living under bridges compared to other ethnicities and races”
That racial disparity forced Crain to confront gaps in the city’s approach to helping the homeless. Her group recently received a $32,000 grant from United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to join a national initiative on racial inequity.
“It should impact how we apply our services and distribute resources,” Crain said. “You can’t talk about homelessness without talking about race. You have to look at those numbers because they don’t add up.”