The Dallas City Council’s Housing Committee will listen to two sobering briefings today. The first is the final report of the Dallas Commission on Homelessness, which outlines findings and recommendations of a year-long look into the homeless problem in Dallas. In short, homelessness in Dallas increased 21 percent over the past year thanks to a combination of high rates of poverty and shortages of affordable housing.
So how should Dallas fight its homeless problem? The first recommendation from the report is that the city and county collaborate to create a “community‐wide system of leadership, accountability, and sustainable funding,” which is advice that might apply to any number of city challenges and initiatives. Other recommendations include creating better systems to monitor homeless populations and connect them to services, expand shelter capacity, increase available housing, and create ways to ensure that people leaving health or substance abuse treatment facilities, as well as correctional facilities, have access to housing.
There’s some good news here, however. Cities like Houston have figured out ways to address homeless. Between 2011 and 2016, Houston has reduced chronic homelessness by 76 percent with overall homelessness down 57 percent thanks to a collaboration with HUD. In other words, a successful model is out there, Dallas just needs to find the leadership and funding to implement it.
And if the council needed any more reminders of how urgent solving the homeless problem is, a second briefing today on community development drills into just how bad Dallas’ poverty problem has become. Here is a worrisome barrage of data to start your week:
- Dallas has the highest number of people living 185 percent below the poverty line of any American city and the second highest number of people living 100 percent below the poverty line.
- Dallas’ median income has declined since 1989.
- Over half of Dallas households make less than $50,000 per year, and 28.6 percent make less than $25,000.
- Less than 20 percent of jobs are accessible by transit in less than 90 minutes, and more than 70 percent of HUD assisted properties are unaffordable when housing and transportation costs are combined.
- Over 27,300 residents live in poverty despite having full-time employment.
- Compared with other Texas cities, Dallas has the highest percentage of individuals without a high school diploma and the lowest percentage of residents who hold college degree.
- 48 percent of single mothers in Dallas live in poverty.
- Five zip codes in southern Dallas, west Dallas, and northwest Dallas have teen birth rates similar to Burkina Faso, the Gambia, and Somalia.
- 38 percent of Dallas children live in poverty, 20 percent have no health insurance, 28 percent have inadequate food and nutrition, 160,000 children are obese, and 60,000 have asthma.