On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, beginning at 9:30 am, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and representatives from several homeless service providers will increase supportive services and client needs assessments for residents of the homeless encampment located at I-30 and Haskell in
Street outreach workers primarily from City Square, Austin Street Center, The Stewpot and Turtle Creek Recovery Center will embark on a “blitz” to methodically assess each person, and document their homelessness, in preparation for moving them into housing, as soon as feasible.
Effective evidence-based street outreach assumes that all persons have strengths and assets, enters into dialogue, figuratively and literally where clients are, and starts the conversation immediately, with a specific question, “What is your housing plan?” Persons are assessed using evidence-based tools, with an eye to facing the practical housing barriers the person faces. The attitude brought to such outreach is key: We are aware, that nearly all persons living unsheltered come from a position of trauma, and are coping with antisocial, destructive and avoidant behaviors. Therefore, we do not judge.
It is important to identify each person’s collateral and most immediate and achievable need, in order to build trust. Case workers must be mindful of the fact that change comes in stages: Some people can move quickly, while others require thoughtful motivational interviews and conversations. Persistence and consistency are key: Follow up, follow up, follow up, with that same question, “What is your housing plan?” Deadlines can be helpful, serving as antagonists to create bias for action, however, the best results depend on the resources available, including time.
To be effective, a ratio of one case manager to ten households is a must, since there is much to do for each person. Case managers must initiate contact, assess and prioritize for service, connect persons with services, staff each case with other relevant agencies, facilitate the development of a housing plan, follow up on said plan, directly assist with barriers to the plan, advocate for the person with other agencies, and document all of this in the Homeless Management Information System.
It is this type of methodical work that was able to lower the estimated number of individuals experiencing homelessness in the largest encampments in
urban core from about 300 to 200 individuals, since the May 2016 closure of the
under the I-45 Bridge.
Specifically, 57 persons were housed by CitySquare, 4 moved out of Dallas, 4
others were housed by other entities, 13 entered emergency shelter, and 18 have
been fully assessed and prioritized, and are ready to be housed immediately,
once housing units open. Tent City
Doing this work, Dallas must come to terms with one more important fact: The persistence of racial inequality stands out in the area of homelessness. African Americans make up 13% of the population, both in the US and Dallas. Across the country, on average, African Americans make up 40% of the homeless population, and 28% of the unsheltered homeless population, which is troubling, in and of itself. However, in Dallas, African Americans make up 67% of the homeless population, and 70% of the unsheltered homeless population! And, unfortunately, true to Chief David Brown’s words on July 8, 2016, this too is one more “societal failure we put… off on the cops to solve.”
As we continue the ongoing work with the unsheltered homeless population, MDHA and its partners will seek to tackle this overrepresentation of African Americans in the homeless population. While no single initiative can end structural racism across all systems, we believe that it is possible to create positive change in attitudes and behaviors that will begin to close the racial gap that has led to the disproportionate prevalence of homelessness among African Americans. We will work to make that happen.
History of Encampment Tent Population Estimates in 2016: