Mayoral candidates weigh in on growing homeless population

MIKE McGEE | 4/21/2019, noon
After the annual homeless count conducted by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance showed a 9% increase in homeless residents for ...
Dallas ISD board trustee Miguel Solis, one of several candidates running for mayor, takes time to talk with a voter after the Mayoral Forum on Homelessness, April 11. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

After the annual homeless count conducted by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance showed a 9% increase in homeless residents for the second year in a row and an 11% increase in chronically homeless residents in Dallas and Collin counties, MDHA held its Mayoral Forum on Homelessness to allow each of the candidates who are attempting to replace outgoing Mayor Mike Rawlings in the May election to discuss how they planned to handle the situation and individual’s concerns.

“Homelessness is one of the most important issues that will confront the next mayor of Dallas,” said Carl Falconer, president and CEO of the alliance. “Therefore, we felt that it was our obligation, as the lead agency of Dallas’ homeless response system, to give candidates a chance to lay out their visions for ending homelessness in our city.”

Four of the candidates attended the forum at the Communities Foundation of Texas, April 11. There, the quartet of leaders voiced their plans on mitigating the issue of the growing local indigent population.

Lynn McBee, former biotech researcher and CEO of the Young Women’s Preparatory Network; Dallas Independent School District trustee Miguel Solis; Councilman Scott Griggs; and Socialist Workers Party member Alyson Kennedy, shared common concerns but differing approaches to making headway on the issue.

The MDHA Point-in-Time Homeless Count, taken in January, revealed 4,538 individuals living on the streets of Dallas and Collin counties. When it came to specific statistics, the vast majority of homeless are men, and African Americans of both genders make up 48% of those without permanent housing.

Falconer served as the moderator of the forum and questioned the candidates in turn about how they would dispel the myths of homelessness.

In her answer, McBee considered what she had seen in her years working with The Salvation Army, The Bridge, and her efforts as part of the homeless count.

“This year, while I was counting, I did my own little mental math. Fifty percent have been incarcerated, and 70% are probably mentally ill, so it’s a very difficult population,” when it comes to finding permanent solutions, she affirmed.

Since the key is to get the homeless connected to support systems and services, her solution to negating myths is for the mayor to be more committed to having local agencies work together to solve the various problems the indigent population faces, rather than the patchwork group of city entities and relief groups applying varied solutions – a process Kennedy described as a “Band-Aid” to make people feel good about doing something.

“The best way to dispel myths I’ve found in public service is to come to the table with facts,” Solis offered. Shaping the Dallas City Council agenda also mattered.

“As Ms. McBee’s already mentioned, we cannot address this issue in silence. We need to have a robust interagency approach. We should focus on partnering with nonprofit organizations, government organizations, the faith-based community, but the city should be working with the county in a more thoughtful way. The city should be working with DART in a more thoughtful way,” he said.