Tent City

I’ve been in a few meetings with the city recently including a city council briefing Wednesday and planning meetings with the city manager (and others). I’ve also spoken to most of the major shelter directors, the police department, Crisis Intervention and MDHA. We have many more meetings to come, so please pray for wisdom and more inclusion. I’ve noted that the largest shelters in the city have been left out of these planning meetings as the city only includes the Bridge. (which I think is offensive and short-sighted).

For those that serve in Tent City and who deeply care for the people there, I thought you should be informed.

There is no definitive plan: 
The city is still pushing for a May closure, but there currently is no hard plan on how or when. There is discussions on details, but when the city council pushed the city manager and MDHA on details, there was a resounding “no” given to questions about final plans. I have heard 3 different dates given, all are within the first week of May. There has been some discussion about moving people to a new locations (which I visited all 3 suggested spots) and and I don’t see those as viable options.

The Bridge has proposed a plan asking the city for more money. This plan is supposed to increase shelter capacity at all 5 of the major shelters. However details are sketchy at best. From what I understand the lion’s share of the money would go to the Bridge, only giving a small portion to the other shelters.  I have spoken to multiple shelter directors who hadn’t seen any details of the plan – even on the day it was presented at City Hall. This is disturbing. Note: This new plan wouldn’t help pay for the 90 beds that Austin Street has already added in response to Tent City.  The Austin Street Center has taken on such a proactive role by adding new space and increasing their day programs for women.

The neighbors are unhappy and concerned – for good reason. A few weeks ago I attended the CBD crime watch meeting and heard from many neighbors around Tent City. I have also met with a few community leaders from CBD, Cedars and Farmers Market. These are good people. They are being vilified against the homeless, which is foolish. Many really care about the homeless, but are disgusted with the way things are being handled. Groups that litter their streets, block traffic, throw out bags of clothes which cover the sidewalks – are a problem for all of us. When we serve under a bridge people are civil(usually). But when they are walking through downtown and to their offices and are harassed by aggressive panhandlers, accosted by an intoxicated individual threatening assault, or have to step over human waste or styrofoam containers from another church group who serves irresponsibly, they have every right to be upset. Please pray for more civility and open communication between these groups.

Feeding and Resource distributions are unfortunately increasing. More groups are coming down, littering the streets, blocking traffic, trespassing on private property, and distributing unnecessary resources without accountability which continues to fuel the drug/sex trafficking. Please I beg you, bring less and pick up more trash. Please partner with established ministries to distribute through accountable means. The more resources distributed on the streets, the less likely our homeless friends will seek the help they truly need.

Warning about scams. Recently more reports are coming of groups trying to raise money for programs without accountability or long-term strategy. Some of these are outright criminal or taking advantage of the situation. Unlicensed boarding homes are continuing to try to take money to house our friends in deplorable conditions. If your organization is trying to raise money for any legitimate program, please discuss this with other established nonprofits so we understand your program and differentiate you from the crooks.

New camps popping up. Because of the continued violence in tent city and the threat of closure, individuals have been moving tents and opening up new encampments all over the city. We’ve identified a number of new locations within a mile of the current Tent City location. If you see any new locations, please use our app and report those directly to us. We have received over 200 new reports since January. We’ve always had small encampments throughout Dallas, however these highly populated ones tend to get violent quickly and are a hotspot for drug dealers and sex trafficking.

New videos. I’ve been working on a project to create a few short videos to answer some of the common questions about tent city and the entire homeless situation in Dallas. Please take a look at the first two and let me know what you think. If you like them share them with your friends. If you have any comments, questions, or can suggest additional topics please let me know.

How did tent city grow so big so fast?

How many homeless people are in Dallas?

Concluding Thoughts:

  • Please continue to use our directory and app ( www.ourcalling.org/app ) to refer our friends to the support they need.
  • Please serve responsibly – pick up trash and don’t enable people with resources that keep them from seeking the services they need. There are so many places our friends can already get food, clothes, etc. each day. Consider having your group partner and serve at one of those already established places.
  • Pray for wisdom and provision as we continue to tackle these difficult days ahead.

Please pray for the homeless.