Dallas Has The Largest Homeless Population In Texas | KERA News

Dallas Has The Largest Homeless Population In Texas

Jan 7, 2020

A growing number of people in the state don't have a place to live.  According to the latest figures, nearly 26,000 people in Texas are homeless — and Dallas has the largest homeless population in the state.

Juan Pablo Garnham has been covering this for The Texas Tribune. He joined KERA's Justin Martin for a dive into the data.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS: 

Why Does Dallas Have The Largest Homeless Population In Texas?

The main reason that advocates give is the problem of housing affordability here in Dallas. There is not enough for the housing for people.

There is a lot of construction of rental supply, but not enough is aimed toward people that are low income.

So we are building a lot of housing in Dallas and in the suburbs of Dallas, but not enough for people that are in that bracket of economic income.  

How Do Homeless Advocacy Organizations Feel About Efforts In Texas?

I think there are reasons to be wary and there are reasons to be optimistic.

Let's start with the bad news: the numbers are going up. A state that has traditionally been thought of as affordable is slowly becoming less affordable with the growth that we have. There are more people coming into the state, there's more demand for housing, and that's clearly driving numbers up in terms of homelessness.

I don't know if the advocates feel that the state is doing enough to fight that. I think that a lot of the organizations want to have more support from the state and from the rich. 

What Do Those Groups Think Can Be Done To Get More People Into Homes?

They have learned that it's really important to coordinate between each other. We have a lot of churches, organizations, community groups working to provide help to people experiencing homelessness. 

The cities that have been successful are the ones that manage to coordinate. They talk to each other. They keep track of the people. They try to find answers, because everyone has very different programs and very different solutions.

Cities that have been successful in those terms have managed to understand that keeping track of people, keeping track of data can do great things in terms of getting solutions. And then, the most important thing is giving housing to everyone no matter what — trying to find any kind of way to open an extra room, an extra bed for someone, one person at a time. That's certainly helped.

In some places, like Houston for example,  what they've done is to be very, very smart in terms of trying to get the funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Other cities are just being creative and trying to get money from philanthropy.

But in general, you need more homes — especially for housing the chronically homeless, which are people that are more vulnerable and probably without help they wouldn't be able to get out of the streets. 

This conversation is part of KERA's One Crisis Away project examining life on the financial edge. 

Answers have been edited for clarity.