Dallas picked as one of six sites to get extra federal help to fight homelessness
Dallas will get even more federal help to reduce the number of people living on the streets. It was one of just six sites chosen for the newly announced All INside Initiative, which will deploy federal staff and resources to help the chosen sites curb the ranks of the nation’s most visible people experiencing homelessness.
The two-year initiative is part of the Biden Administration’s strategy to cut the nation’s unsheltered homeless population by 25% by the end of 2025. It’s a major challenge: In 2022, there were over 580,000 homeless people in the U.S., and 4 in 10 of them were unsheltered, living in tents, on the streets and in cars, said Ambassador Susan Rice, the White House’s domestic policy director.
“Our nation’s homelessness challenge, at its roots, comes down to an inadequate supply of housing. But it also intersects with mental and behavioral health, substance abuse and so many key issues,” Rice said in a livestreamed virtual launch event.
The news comes as Dallas and Collin counties have received unprecedented levels of federal funding to reduce homelessness — and have clocked some early success. This new initiative appears to add bureaucratic heft to those dollars.
As part of the new initiative, Dallas will get a federal official dedicated to work with the regional network of government agencies and nonprofits working to curb homelessness.
The effort, led by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, also includes federal government staffers tasked with finding federal regulatory barriers to local efforts, helping local governments access funding, and increasing the flow of ideas and strategies from region to region.
Dallas joins Chicago, Los Angeles, the greater Phoenix region, Seattle and the state of California.
A major goal is to focus on improving systemic responses to a systemic problem by improving the coordination of services, said Denis McDonough, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Carolyn King Arnold, Dallas’ Deputy Mayor Pro Tem, said at the virtual launch event that the region’s homelessness response is increasingly data-driven, coordinated and focused on efficiency and equity.
“We know that this...partnership will help amplify those efforts and look forward to continuing these efforts together, working to solve homelessness and continue to confront the racial inequities that are prevalent in housing and homelessness,” Arnold said.
During the pandemic, armed with unprecedented emergency federal funds, Dallas-area local governments teamed up with nonprofits and philanthropies to pour millions of dollars into a rapid rehousing program aimed to move more than 2,500 people out of encampments and into apartments.
Housing Forward, which helms the regional continuum of care for Dallas and Collin Counties, has added dozens of caseworkers. The group also put an increased focus on curbing homelessness on the front end by helping people in financial crisis to stay housed.
And in February, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a $22.8 million grant to help reduce unsheltered homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties.
The annual Point in Time Count held in January shows some promising results: A 32% decrease in chronic homelessness, a 14% decrease in unsheltered homelessness, and an 18% increase in people exiting homelessness to permanent housing.
Arnold said the region’s doubled down on collecting and sharing data to increase efficiency and equity. The network of nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations that work with people experiencing homelessness is less siloed and better coordinated, she said. Nearly twice as many agencies participate in the Homeless Management Information System, designed to make sure peoples’ complex needs are met so they can get and stay sustainably housed.
But progress hasn’t been entirely even. Collin County, which has fewer resources to help people facing homelessness, saw an increase in its unhoused population, even as Dallas County saw its numbers shrink. And across the region, many on the streets remain skeptical that the system could actually help them.
Broader trends also present significant headwinds: Ongoing inflation combined with the rollback of pandemic-era safety net spending pack a punishing punch. When it comes to housing, the deck is increasingly stacked against poor people in North Texas: For every 100 very-low-income renters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, there are just 16 available rental homes they can reasonably afford.
Homelessness also remains deeply unequal: Over 60% of the Dallas area’s homeless population is Black, even though Black households making up just 24% of general population, the product of historic and ongoing policies and practices that, intentionally or not, harm Black communities.
Arnold said an “equitable access analysis” is also underway to “ensure our unhoused residents in every area of our system can continue to connect with the rehousing efforts and resources to end their homelessness.” Dallas also recently approved a housing plan focused on addressing long-standing racial inequities.
Federal officials launching the All INside Initiative pointed to efforts to include the voices of people experiencing homelessness in the response, specifically a Youth Action Board made up of current and formerly unhoused young people.
Peter Brodsky, who chairs Housing Forward’s board of directors, said it’s one of many ways the voices of unhoused people are included in the region’s response to homelessness. He said Housing Forward interviews people exiting homelessness to identify gaps and improve the process. And he said the group pushes nonprofits working with this population include at least one person who has actually been homeless on their boards of directors.
“Lived experience has to inform everything that we do,” he said. “Because unless you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes, you don’t really understand the barriers and complexities that they’ve faced.”
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