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Rainy Day Brings Homelessness Into Focus For New Dallas Partnership

Bill Zeeble
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings talks of the city/county partnership plan to tackle homelessness. To his right is city council member Mark Clayton, and beside him Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and county commissioner Theresa Daniel.

City and county leaders in Dallas Tuesday announced a partnership of organizations focused on tackling homelessness. Their appointees will work with nonprofits and private groups to strengthen the efforts.

As it rained outside Dallas City Hall, Mayor Mike Rawlings recalled one of the lessons from his five years as the city’s homeless czar.  

“They get wet, they get cold,” he said. “They realize that they’re at the nadir of their lives. So whenever I see bad weather coming, that’s the first thought I have for these homeless.”

Now, Rawlings will have a partner in Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. The county and city are  forming a group that will oversee others already involved in reaching the homeless.  Agencies like Parkland Hospital and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will join businesses and citizens. Members of the group will include three homeless people or folks who used to be homeless.  

Rawlings says it’s time for an oversight organization.

“This was the big issue I that saw we faced," he says. "A lot of people were out doing good work but it wasn’t coordinated. And we didn’t’ work together the way we should so.”

Jenkins said this effort should result in more funding on top of the millions of dollars the county already spends. He also hopes the move inspires more citizen involvement, as opposed to people leaving the government to handle it.  

“None of us are doing enough on homelessness,” Jenkins said. “We’re all going to come together to prevent and end homelessness. If your church or group does after-school or diapers, we’ve got kids that are homeless that need diapers. There’s nothing that you’re doing out there to help people that you can’t have skin in the game on the homeless fight.”

Elected city and county officials will appoint members to the new organization. But first, they have to approve the plan. City council members will get briefed on the plan Wednesday.  

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.