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Dallas housing staff closes the Meyers Jeffries homeless encampment

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Azul Sordo
/
KERA
A shopping cart lies on its side near the corner of Jefferies St. in Dallas. There are little to no traces of those who once resided in the homeless encampment.

The Meyers Jeffries homeless encampment located in South Dallas had long been home to residents experiencing homelessness who had set up tents, placed thrown-out couches beneath trees for shade and turned abandoned shipping containers into homes. Now, there are no traces of belongings and fences surround the area.

Dallas housing staff closed the Meyers Jeffries homeless encampment on May 20, according to a memo sent to the city council on Friday. The teardown is “the largest site” in the history of the city’s R.E.A.L. Time Rapid Rehousing Initiative to be resolved, according to the memo.

“It’s about time,” Dallas resident John Freeman said.

Freeman has lived at the apartment complex across the street of the former site for over 20 years.

He said he feels a lot safer now that the homeless encampment is out of his neighborhood.

The Dallas R.E.A.L. Time Rapid Rehousing aims to house over 2,700 individuals experiencing homelessness in North Texas by 2023. More than 40 people living at the Meyers Jeffries site were placed in subsidized housing and have case managers. And 10 others are waiting for final housing inspections that will make sure units assigned to them are safe to live in.

Christine Crossley, Director of the Office of Homeless Solutions, said the remaining 10 will be guaranteed subsidized housing. She also noted that not every person at the site was housed or agreed to.

JefferiesSt_Sordo_01.jpeg
Azul Sordo
/
KERA
A notice of disclosure sign, recently posted in the Meyers Jefferies neighborhood by the city of Dallas, warns locals that the area will be patrolled by the Office of Homeless Solutions as well as the Dallas Police Department. Fences now border the edges of the ex-encampment.

OHS worked for over two months with several entities in Dallas including Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, City Square, Catholic Charities, Dallas Housing Authority, The Bridge, Metro Relief, Stewpot and others.

Alexandria Martinez assistant program manager with City Square said she met a lot of loving, resilient and kind people at the site.

“For this project specifically, we just came out and started talking to them early,” Martinez said. “... Asking ‘What kind of documents do you have? What can we help you get?’ that how we start. ‘Where are you at and how can we help you?’”

Martinez said it was important for her team to secure so-called critical documents like a birth certificate, social security card and a Texas ID for the individuals experiencing homelessness. She said this would help with housing options.

Dallas’ housing shortage has made it difficult to find places that accept housing vouchers, according to Martinez. She said that was one of the biggest challenges.

Shutting down the Meyers Jeffries encampment took months of engagement and work, the memo said. And it helped streamline the process for future sites, which OHS predicts smaller sites will take 4-6 weeks to close now.

“Working with the homeless population can be challenging, however in all my time working with the population that is experiencing homelessness, I have never physically seen this magnitude of benefits,” said Alonzo Grape, OHS Project Coordinator.

“The collaboration and teamwork were incredible, and words really cannot describe the impact of this humanistic solution.”

OHS said it is working to keep the site closed.

JefferiesSt_Sordo_02.jpeg
Azul Sordo
/
KERA
John Freeman, 83, sits outside the Aya Village apartment complex, which is adjacent to the former -homeless encampment. As a resident of 20 years, Freeman says he knows South Dallas like the palm of his hand.

The Meyers Jeffries neighborhood in South Dallas has been historically neglected. Several of the properties around the site are owned by developers who said they seek to build single-family homes.

Freeman said this was a promise made years ago, but never happened.

“South Dallas is not as bad as people think it is,” he said. “Change is gonna come. But we have so far to go.”

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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