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Chronic Homelessness in DFW Hampers Efforts to Address Range of Needs

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-458547.mp3

Chronic Homelessness in DFW Hampers Efforts to Address Range of Needs

Dallas, TX – Catherine Cuellar, 90.1 reporter: Richard Case is the kind of person many people picture when they think of the homeless. He calls soliciting donations at busy intersections "flying a sign."

Richard Case, formerly homeless person with AIDS: When I was flying a sign I had priorities. My first priority was gas in the car, then food, then cigarettes, then beer.

Cuellar: Case is considered chronically homeless - a group defined as transient for a year or longer and suffering from mental illness or addiction to drugs or alcohol. Case has AIDS, as does about a quarter of the region's chronically homeless population. Case weaned himself off crack to get off the streets and into the Samaritan House, a drug- and alcohol-free residence for people with AIDS. About a quarter of its clients are chronically homeless. Ted Lovato is the associate executive director.

Ted Lovato, Associate Executive Director, Samaritan House: We work constantly with our clients to keep them free from those substances however, as you might imagine, housing facilities like ours are located in areas there's lots of drugs and alcohol going on in the area. So that's one of our biggest problems. I don't think that the fancy suburbs would let us have a place.

Cuellar: In addition to overcoming addiction, about half of the chronically homeless are mentally ill, like Annette Walker, another Samaritan House resident.

Annette Walker, Samaritan House resident: Before I went into the psychiatric hospital I was staying up under a tree, sleeping on cardboard boxes. When I was homeless I wasn't on any medication. My prescription either ran out. I didn't have refills and I just, I missed a lot of doctor's appointments because I was nasty as far as not having a bath, not having clean clothes. You might say those are just excuses but those were reasons why I didn't go to the doctor to make sure I had my psych meds.

Cuellar: Walker, a recovering alcoholic and crack addict, could not get help from her family because they are also homeless. But the problems related to homelessness are sometimes more than a family can bear. Pam Boyd's parents divorced when she was very young, and her mother got a restraining order to keep her father, an abusive alcoholic, away from her and her sister.

Pam Boyd, daughter of homeless man: After we fled for shelter from my father we didn't have relatives nearby, but I think my mom quickly started doing 2 or 3 jobs to support us, and I remember we lived in some very run-down places. But at that point, to think of staying in a temporary shelter where there were alcoholics would have been terrifying.

Cuellar: As adults, Boyd and her sister located their father, who had become homeless. Boyd's father was disinterested in his family's support. After his death, Boyd and her sister were contacted as next of kin. They tried to find his other relatives.

Boyd: And they didn't want to have anything to do with him. What they said was he's hurt us too many times, he has lied to us, brought shame to our family and it's just too late for him. We don't want to remember him. We're glad he's dead, basically. And that was shocking to us.

Cuellar: Measuring success remains a shadowy problem because the U.S. Census counts people in emergency and transient shelters at specific times. Not all homeless people are counted. Cities must develop a plan to end homelessness over the next decade to receive federal funding for Housing and Urban Development. But the chronic homeless often resist rehabilitation, depleting resources for others, and making it tough for cities to effectively address the range of homeless needs.

For more information, click on:

Dallas' 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness

Tarrant County Homeless Coalition

Samaritan House

 

Email Catherine Cuellar about this story.