City Council rejects idea to house homeless in Dallas rec centers

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A controversial idea to house homeless people in Dallas recreation centers throughout the city was quickly shot down by city councilmembers on Wednesday.

The Dallas City Council is going back to the drawing board after an idea that city staff spent months developing was dead on arrival. The proposal to use Dallas recreation centers as homeless shelters received a resounding no from council members.

“It is not going to work,” said Councilman Adam Medrano. “You expect it to shelter homeless and run its daily activities.”

Council members say they have been getting an earful from constituents, especially about children's activities scheduled at the rec centers.

The idea was to house the 1,100 unsheltered homeless without concentrating them downtown. The city’s new homeless solutions czar ranked rec centers as ideal locations that are: not in a high crime area, an Area with less than 20% poverty, and have public transportation within a half mile. Included on the list were the Lake Highlands and Walnut Hill recreation centers.

Councilman Scott Griggs said zoning changes could open the door to private pop-up shelters.

“We could end up with these shelters throughout our neighborhoods,” he said.

Councilwoman Sandy Greyson questioned City Manager T.C. Broadnax about how the idea even got this far.

“We have had a lot of push back which it seems to me you kind of ignored,” Greyson told the city manager.

“As we were asked to put together a strategy for homelessness, we wanted to get input,” Broadnax said. “We have heard it loud and clear. We’ll go back to the drawing board.”

Another idea is to repurpose the old Timberlawn Behavioral Health Hospital. The facility at Samuel Boulevard and Interstate 30 shows signs of neglect, but at least one councilmember sees potential.

“It has 59,000 square feet of office,” said Councilman Lee Kleinman. “Imagine our all of our providers being at the facility where our homeless people are.”

However, the old hospital is in Buckner Terrace, which is in Councilman Kevin Felder’s district. He said there is already backlash against the idea.