Dallas to hold series of town halls in effort to fight homelessness

The City of Dallas will host the first of a series of town halls next week in which the city is seeking to inform citizens about its new plan to combat homelessness.

Over the past year, Dallas has seen a 24 percent increase in the amount of people calling its streets home. The city is drawing up plans to curb that growth. Part of the effort involves decriminalizing homelessness and opening up temporary shelters that would be located in all parts of the city.

Monica Hardman, the director at the city’s Office of Homeless Solutions, is at the forefront of the fight against homelessness. She just passed her 90th day on the job, but has already rolled out a plan that would create housing or shelter for 1,300 people.

It’s a hefty task that comes with an equally hefty price tag, but Hardman wants people to remember that homelessness can happen to anyone.

“Often people think of the most extreme example and they don’t think it could be any one of us,” she said.

One of the biggest issues that Hardman runs into is that many landlords don’t want to rent their apartments to homeless persons that have federal housing vouchers. She says the issue is causing a backlog in the city’s shelters.

"We estimate we have 700-800 residents in our shelters who have vouchers and are ready to move but cannot find a landlord willing to accept it," Hardman said.

Under the city’s plan, Dallas would lease the apartments and then sublease them to the homeless.

“We have a risk mitigation plan to take care of any damages that may occur,” Hardman said.

The plan would also combine $20 million in bond money with $180 million in private funds to build a complex that would house the chronically homeless and include support services onsite.

The city has yet to determine where it wants to build the complex but Hardman says it will not be downtown.

“Most of the shelter services are concentrated in the core near the central business district,” Hardman said. “Our goal would be to decentralize as much as possible."

Hardman says that the city is also looking to open four different shelters in different parts of the city for 90 days each on a rotating basis. That’s something that she’s expecting people to ask tough questions about.

“People are often [thinking] ‘Okay if we have a shelter in the rec center, or the library, or community center, or the church I go to every day, how will that impact me and my family?’” Hardman said. “I think it is working through those concerns, that is the purpose of our public outreach meetings.”

The city will hold 16 meetings during July and August. The first is set for Tuesday, July 10 at 6:30 p.m.