On Wednesday morning, MDHA Vice President, Rebecca Cox, along with other members of the Taskforce, was doing her regularly scheduled weekly visit with the folks at the encampment. She discovered something she had not seen during previous visits – a one year old baby. Rebecca texted Cindy, and they decided then and there that that child and her mother would NOT spend another night there. It turned out that the mother had been connected to housing already. Why was she still there? She needed about $50 for the apartment application fee. This was a classic case of the agency connecting her to housing not being able to pay for that fee due to the specifications of their housing grant. Cindy immediately had cut a check for this. Rebecca picked it up, and hand-delivered it, and the problem was solved.
|Courtesy of Edd Eason, CoC Chair|
On Friday, following careful and methodical work these last two-three months, the same Taskforce was able to connect a good number of folks in the encampment to housing. The Taskforce members will continue to work with the others to connect more and more of them to housing. As part of this effort, Cindy had invited Christopher Herring, of the University of California–Berkeley to advise us, homeless advocates, and community leaders on this issue.
Chris, who has done extensive field research on tent cities, delivered a fascinating, erudite and down to earth presentation titled, “Coping With Tent City” during our “Hard Conversation” at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (co-sponsored by CitySquare), with about eighty people in attendance. He talked about commonalities and differences in the roots, nature and character of such encampments, and the constructive and less constructive responses to them. His main argument is that encampment growth correlates not with rises in poverty and homelessness, rather with criminalization of various acts associated with homelessness. This pushes folks experiencing homelessness figuratively and literally to the margins.
You can read more about Friday’s exciting developments and Chris’ presentation in this great piece by our good friend, Tasha Tsiaperas, on the Dallas Morning News blog: Social workers find housing for 21 people living in homeless camp under I-45 - http://thescoopblog.dallasnews.com/2015/08/social-workers-find-housing-for-21-people-living-in-homeless-camp-under-i-45.html/ Tasha references a promising development. The Justice Department just announced last week, that they are taking legal action to contest laws that criminalize homelessness, as violations of the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Hopefully, this will encourage other communities to approach this issue in a more constructive way, as we are here in