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Tent City Closes, But Homeless Outreach Workers Say Their Work Is Not Done

Tent City is now closed. Cindy Crain, president of Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, says the process was "peaceful," but also "deeply stressful."

Dallas officials have shut down Tent City, the homeless encampment under I-45 near downtown. The nearly 300 tents are gone, the trash and debris have been cleared, and the city has fenced off the area. It's a bit quieter now than it was months ago.

Cindy Crain, president of Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, said the shutdown effort, which began last month, ended right on schedule.

“We made sure there weren’t IDs left, and we helped people pack,” Crain said. “So it’s clear. It looks like a cleared area underneath a major American highway.”

The city decided to shut down the homeless camp because of concerns over violence and public health. A recent tally also showed there was a more-than-20-percent uptick in the homeless population across Dallas since last year. Crain said the process has been calm and structured.

“It was so peaceful,” she said. “I mean it was stressful, deeply stressful for several people, but we were able to get them to make decisions, move out, cooperate and participate because they trusted us.”

Crain said service groups have placed about 50 people from Tent City in some kind of housing – emergency shelters as well as transitional, shared and permanent supportive housing. She said, though, there’s still not enough places for Dallas’ homeless. There are also barriers, like lack of ID or having a criminal record, that make it difficult to find work or a home.

“The residents under I-45 represent some of the most resilient people in Dallas,” Crain said, her voice breaking. “It’s pretty extraordinary. [They’re] very good people living in very horrible circumstances, and they’re still here and they’re surviving. It’s our job to do what we can and figure out what their housing plan is and help them get there.”

Crain said outreach workers will now try to find people from Tent City, who were close to getting housed, and help them get settled somewhere more permanent. She said they’ve learned a lot from the past few months, and will use that to tackle the new homeless camps that have already popped up around Dallas.