Dallas has made progress in housing homeless people. But City Council Members were impatient Monday about millions of dollars spent to buy properties for homeless housing years ago that have yet to house anyone.
There was a call to turn work over to outside experts as the need for homeless housing in Dallas grows.
The former Miramar Hotel on Fort Worth Avenue had 73 rooms. It was purchased for $3.6 million in 2020 for COVID-19 housing. The plan was to renovate it for 40 dwelling units that homeless people could really use.
FORTH WORTH AVENUE UPDATE
Dallas City Council Member Chad West represents the neighborhood.
“I want this to have a happy ending. I just don’t see a path forward with the way we’ve handled this project, the way we’re set up to handle the remaining projects,” West said.
Two other properties purchased by the city to become homeless housing also stand empty and unused.
West said he would prepare a memo asking that the work go to outside groups that could make the projects happen.
City Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said she would also sign it.
The Dallas Office of Homeless Solutions offered a plan Monday to spend another $6 million to complete the Fort Worth Avenue project.
HOMELESS REHOUSING UPDATE
Director Christine Crossley said she was not involved with the original plan, which was launched three years ago.
A non-profit group that was to operate the project backed out.
“We used the opportunity to go back to the community and hold extensive conversations around what would be added to that scope,” Crossley said.
City Council Member Gay Donnell Willis also questioned the city’s lack of progress with so many homeless people in need.
“It is our duty and obligation to explore these challenges. That’s why these questions are being asked. And we’re hearing some new information that is quite alarming,” Willis said.
Funding for the updated Fort Worth Avenue project is not yet finalized.
But council members were also told Monday about the progress Dallas has made partnering with non-profit groups to reach the 2021 goal of housing 2,700 homeless people by this month.
The new goal is 6,000 by 2025.
At the same time, soaring Dallas home prices and big, expensive new homes replacing more affordable old ones may increase the number of homeless people, according to Joli Robinson, Chief Executive Officer of Housing Forward, formerly known as Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.
“We have to get serious about deeply affordable housing. Our homeless response system isn’t a prevention system. Our homeless response system, unfortunately, is set up in a way that it has to wait until a person becomes unhoused,” Robinson said. “We’re going to see the impact of people not being able to afford their homes. We’re going to see more people impacted by that. We’re going to see more and more people being displaced by development coming in and have no other options. And our system can’t continue to bail water while there’s still massive floods of individuals flooding the market.”
Robinson also said the response to homeless encampments needs improvement to rapidly move people from camps to housing.
The City of Dallas is hiring 16 additional outreach workers for that task in the new city budget that took effect October 1.
Another report for the Dallas City Council Housing and Homelessness Committee said the cost of providing supportive housing saves money compared with the cost of other public services like hospitals that unhoused people are likely to use.