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Lingering in the street just got very expensive in Dallas — and advocates for the homeless cry foul

A person holding up a sign that says "Please Help God Bless" on the street.
Dallas City Council passed an ordinance that fines pedestrians for lingering in the street.

Lingering in the street in Dallas where the median is six feet or less, or where there’s no median, now carries a financial cost — a fine as high as $500.

The Dallas City Council passed the ordinance on a 14 to 1 vote.

Advocates for people who are experiencing homelessness have warned that ticketing and fining people who can't afford to pay would create a hardship.

Dr. Ghassan Khankarli, the director of the city’s department of transportation, said that Dallas has had 53 pedestrian fatalities so far this year and 68 last year. Council members passed the city’s Vision Zero plan in June, which aims to make streets safer for pedestrians by eliminating traffic fatalities and achieving a 50% reduction in severe injuries by 2030.

Khankarli said at the Wednesday city council meeting that the ordinance will help with those efforts.

“We’ve got a trend here that is not very favorable, and this ordinance will help us in that effort to try to reverse that,” he said.

Council Member Adam Bazaldua from district 7 was the only member who voted against the ordinance. He said it unfairly targets panhandlers and the city’s homeless population.

“I’m not going to support criminalizing poverty and homelessness,” Bazaldua said.

But Council Member Gay Donnell Willis from district 13 said this ordinance will serve as a tool for law enforcement to help people in need. She also said the ordinance will protect drivers from having a collision because they’re distracted by people in the median or road.

Willis said the ordinance’s intent is to address public safety, not panhandling.

“This is to help give our law enforcement a way to give safe harbor to those who could be mentally ill, drug addicted, hallucinating, as I have seen time and time again,” she said.

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Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.

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Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.