Dallas officials mull bonds, restaurant tax to fight homelessness

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Dallas' homeless problem is getting worse and the city could consider taking out a bond to address the problem.

Voters would have to approve a $24 million bond package that would specifically fight homelessness, which has spiked by 25 percent in 2016. Some city leaders are also considering a restaurant tax.

Britton Banowsky now chairs the mayor's commission on homelessness.

"We have a lot of people on our street who are sick, disabled, diabetes cancer, behavior issues, shortage of mental health facilities,” Banowsky said. “Those people need housing and support."

Banowsky and the commission are pushing for $24 million bond package that would go to build apartments for the homeless. The commission estimates there are 10,000 homeless people living on the streets or in shelters in Dallas and 3,500 of them are children.

Dallas is currently losing $8 million dollars in housing vouchers a year because not enough landlords are accepting them.

"Shame on us for not figuring out how to use that $8 million dollars in the right way,” Rawlings said on Tuesday.

John Hughes never thought he'd live in a homeless shelter.

"These are my clothes and stuff, keep them in a suitcase,” Hughes said.

He used to work at Dallas Love Field. But one day he got in a car crash. His mother was with him, and she was killed and he had a breakdown.

"After she passed away, I lost my job, my car, my home. Everything,” Hughes said. “I didn't want my family to know what I was going through.”

Housing vouchers could help people like Hughes.

In addition to a bond, the Dallas City Council may consider a restaurant tax. Many cities, like Miami, tax restaurant meals to provide a continual source of funding for the homeless.

"If we can't put in the existing budget, something like this could be a minimum impact on the community and a massive impact on the city of Dallas,” said Daniel Roby, Executive Director of the Austin Street Shelter.

The city says in the end it will be much cheaper to house the homeless than have them going to emergency rooms due to being out in the elements. People like Hughes are holding out hope.

"I'm on the list to get a home, hopefully it won’t be too long now,” Hughes said.

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