City of Dallas rolls out new database connecting panhandlers to social services
The database is part of a six-month initiative approved by the Dallas City Council. The pilot program includes updated signage, public education, and outreach when it comes to panhandling cases.
Launched this week, the new database connects various city departments to help reduce the number of Dallas panhandlers.
The city’s community courts and RIGHT Care Team (Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team), which includes social workers, will have access to data collected by the Office of Homeless Solutions for each panhandling case. If a case involves substance abuse or additional enforcement, the City of Dallas Marshal’s Office will get involved.
Dallas Office of Homeless Solutions director Christine Crossley said most of these departments were already doing the work to lower the number of panhandlers in the city. It’s now about getting everyone to communicate.
"There's so much more to the solution than just a one-off conversation or handing somebody something on the street,” Crossley said. “These people are out here, whether they're homeless or not because there is a need there. Until that need is realized or fulfilled in a sustainable way, we're not really solving the problem."
When a call is placed to the non-emergency hotline, city officials will investigate. The information will be entered into a new database, allowing multiple city entities access to the same data points so that they can schedule follow-up plans for each individual case.
Crossley stressed much of the city’s data shows not all panhandlers are people without adequate housing, but many are still in need of social services.
“Really that's why the best way for us to combat this is to offer compassionate care when we see these folks. Because even if you arrested everybody on-site, how does that help them meet their financial need?” Crossley said.
Currently, the line between illegal and legal solicitation is somewhat blurry. Those panhandling can receive a V-citation for Community Courts which focuses on rehabilitation. The city will assist with housing, job placement, and other services if defendants plead no-contest.
If a Class C Citation is given, the defendant must appear in municipal court. The maximum fine for this citation is $500 plus court costs.
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