Meanwhile, Back at Main Street Garden, More Questions About How to Handle Homeless

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Surely you didn't think you'd heard the last about the homeless sleeping in Main Street Garden ...

A few weeks after council member Angela Hunt tweeted about the "bums" in the downtown park, KXAS-Channel 5 sent its cameras to see what was what during the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning. And, sure enough, there were more than a few folks sleeping here and there 'round the park, much to the distress of some women out walking their dogs or getting in some exercise before work. To which Dallas PD spokesman Kevin Janse said, "We are taking the necessary steps to hopefully curtail it as far as assigning additional officers out there."

That prompted a Saturday-morning follow-up from my old pal Scott Henson, who serves Grits for Breakfast and wonders if perhaps the answer doesn't lie in "supportive long-term housing for the chronically homeless," which, of course, comes with its own controversies, as evidenced by the fight over a proposed complex near First Presbyterian downtown.
So the question becomes: Do cities want to manage the problem as a criminal justice issue, with homeless people either outdoors in the street or locked up the jail, or are urban neighborhoods better off when the homeless have a place to go? It may not be great for property values to have low-or-no rent housing on your block, but isn't that better than people lying on sidewalks and park benches? Supportive housing keeps those it serves off the street at night, as well as creating one-stop-shopping venues to provide mental-health, addiction, employment and other services to help folks get back on their feet. It's expensive, but so is dispatching police, taking people to jail, treating mental illness through the justice system, trying to process Class C tickets on people with no address, or busing people to far away shelters.
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43 comments
Bob Voelker
Bob Voelker

Yes that is the catch 22 - and the social justice issue - the prevailing thought is probably I don't want homeless sleeping in park OR supportive housing - I just want thne homeless to go away. But someone 2000 years ago said something prophetic to Dallas in 2011 - "the poor will always be with you." We need care and compassion here and not just fear and frustration.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

hmmmmm

Lower Greenville residents are told that they knew they were living in an entertainment area when they moved in so they should just deal with the parking hassles and people peeing in their yard.

Why aren't people telling downtown residents that the bums were there before their condo, so they should just deal with people hitting them up for change and sleeping in the parks?

The "D" in Big D stands for Dysfunctional.

cp
cp

Again, too many people confusing "shelter resistant" with actual homelessness.....

jharris214
jharris214

I was actually talking to a homeless person in Deep Ellum on Friday night.  It actually was probably the most coherent conversation I've had with a homeless person. He had battled drug addiction and claimed to be HIV+ but was quite content despite his desperate situation.   He was also clear as to why he stays away from the shelters; there is always problems with other homeless fights over possessions and resources can be commonplace.  He'd rather be off on his own. I felt like a jerk afterward because I had my guard up when I saw him coming down the road, knowing he's was going to ask for change.  I can empathize with the guy, as he didn't come off as the standard pushy or aggressive homeless person you can find in the area.  However even if a homeless person is the nicest person in the world, you'd rather not see them sleeping in the parks or hassling people for change.  What can be done to address the ones who'd rather be off on their own, without using hardline tactics?  I guess that's the million dollar questions.  

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

The city needs to bring back the Dallas Park Police. They were eliminated years ago due to cost cuts. But now that the city is on the 'green' wagon by bringing parks back into the urban center, it's something you just gotta have. Like it or not. Also, you're going to have to water the trees and grass and keep it clean 24/7.So the city needs to act like a real city and put the cost of Park Police, and maintenance back into the budget and move forward. This thing is going to hang around Rawlings neck like a big ol nasty necklace until he deals with it.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Again, I think we needs to properly differentiate what the difference between homeless and bum is..

Homeless: People who are down on their luck who want help, but are lacking the means to find it

Bum: People who have given up or just dont care

I dont have an issue w/ helping the homeless, as they deserve our sympathy and help. Bums, however, dont deserve anything.  I know it sounds cruel, but its just plain honesty. If you're going to slap the hand that helps you because you refuse to take your meds or get your addiction issues taken care of,  you dont deserve anyones help...

SchluderStrip
SchluderStrip

 "We are taking the necessary steps to hopefully curtail it as far as assigning ""additional"" officers out there."

Yes, please send more than the zero amount of officers you send now.You see, this is what I dont like about "PR" answers.  No one wants to say, "well, we havent really done diddly, but now we'll start" (and look like they're not doing there job).  So now the general public gets the idea that a normal amount of monitoring doesnt work.

As a resident of Main street, all I'm looking for is something more than the "zero" amount of police presence.  Hell, you can even let them sleep there, but when 4-5am rolls around, send someone around to stir up the park.

Bigmac Tony
Bigmac Tony

Copy Austin and put the homeless shelter right in the center of the entertainment district to scare off all those horrible white people looking to spend money. Oh.. right. Dallas doesn't have an entertainment district

Bigmac Tony
Bigmac Tony

Labor camps. Since they love camping.

Gmit
Gmit

Put them in a shelter and after 14 days and no one claims them , they get a nice shot and go to sleep peacefully

Noah Jeppson
Noah Jeppson

Permanent supportive housing is one of the solutions that many downtown residents support; we already have an award-winning facility downtown (CityWalk@Akard) and there's clearly a need for more. Unfortunately vocal minorities oppose these types of projects throughout the city, leaving us with few options other than treating the homeless as chronic annoyances.

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

You don't need to jail them, just run them off. It's a nuisance but not a crisis.

And you don't need to build more housing for them, they often don't want to be in housing because you can't drink, smoke or get high at the entry point shelters for the homeless (PSH is likely another story).

And how much housing should we build anyways? The city/county can't afford the ones we do have. Is the next logical step is to donate the old Reunion Arena site and build yet a bigger shelter. It'd be full on the first day, only showing the foolishness of the City's plan to end homelessness.

Years ago, we didn't have much community financial and structural support and homeless people either stayed with friends/family, living off the charity of others or went to work in low paying jobs in fields and factories. The truly disabled were/are taken care of by the federal government though Social Security Disability where they can take their rent checks where ever they want/can afford. 

Jim Bob Guthrie
Jim Bob Guthrie

I say let them live on a farm.  Teach them how to grow crops, animals and let them sell it at the Farmer's Market.  It would show them that there is something outside of themselves worth helping and living for.  It would get them off of our streets and be a pleasant experience for them.   Why do all homeless shelters have to be urban?

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Other cities seem to have been successful at providing services to the homeless outside of their downtowns.  Why can't Dallas do that?  Supportive, long-term housing?  OK, but shouldn't we utilize the absolute cheapest real estate for that?

lilone9283
lilone9283

I agree with G_David....Didn't the city JUST build a new halfway house where the homeless can go?  From my experience, after working at a downtown bar for three years, providing the homeless with a free place to stay doesn't do anything.  They are still out begging for change every evening because that's when there is the most people-traffic downtown.  Considering all of the hand-UPS a lot of these people are given, I'd say its the vast majority that still prefer to just take the hand-OUT.

G_David
G_David

"....or are urban neighborhoods better off when the homeless have a place to go?"

And what do we when the homeless don't WANT to have a place to go?  Some people just prefer to be free-range. 

UncleScrappy
UncleScrappy

I think you have seen now some of the real problems. Shelters tend to be like JAIL or PRISON to these people. Searches at the door, cant smoke, people stealing from you. Fights with you or around you. Doesnt sound like a place I would want to be if I wanted to better myself.

People dont want to know the real world these people live in & the problems they face. They think their Nice Lifestyle is obtainable by anyone. Some of the other problems come up like mentioned about the Church group opposing the building of a Living Center for them. This comes up EVERY time there is any discussion about building something like that anywhere. Everyone has a "NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD" attitude. So in essence they dont really care about solving the problem. They just want it out of their sight.

The best solution I have seen from both here in the USA as well as places in Europe is to create a Large Park Enviroment. Usually it is under Freeways & Underpasses. They usually have pavillions & picnic tables where homeless people as well as buns will congergate. Also Churches & other groups will have parking areas to bring in assistance. They will usually wall it off to keep entrances & exits to a minimum. This way they can control better not allowing Knifes & Weapons in. People can have fires to cook on & places to lay & sleep. Also usually it is large enough to get off by yourself if wanted.

Problem is there is no where in Dallas I can think of for this other than the Trinity Bottoms and they flood plus we want to build Fancy Parks down thru there, (Oh wait, that is another controversy)

We will never totally solve this issue. All we can try to do is control it. But we cant control it our way. We need to understand what these people want & how to give it to them. They want a quiet place to sleep without haveing to fight a bunch of red-tape & problems. They enjoy sleeping outside where they feel in control. We must understand that & allow them to keep those feelings if we want to work together to better these problems.

Reality Check
Reality Check

Oh yeah?!? LOL

What a load of crap. What have you done for "homeless" individuals, lately, to demonstrate your sympathy? What type of help have you offered?

Don't Lie!

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

Are you forgetting Lower Greenville? (queue LG resident cry babies)

Guest
Guest

Hell, let's just put 'em in boxcars then gas 'em. Asshole.

RealTV
RealTV

How much did Greenan pay you for this plug???

Jason
Jason

Now that's a breath of fresh air comment! Thank you!

Jpgreenan
Jpgreenan

I'm not aware of any such cities. New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Houston all locate permanent supportive housing in or adjacent to downtown--I've visited developments in all of those cities.

UncleScrappy
UncleScrappy

We did use the Cheapest Real Estate for the shelter we have now. Vacant Area hadnt been used in over a century.

Maybe we should start a Homeless Bus Service & just shuttle them over to Arlington or Ft Worth. That way they will be out of Dallas County & let Tarrant County tackle the issue.

UncleScrappy
UncleScrappy

While you are correct, the problem also becomes a COST ISSUE. If we start locking them up because of Vagrancy or Sleeping in the park & such. Then that costs all of us in Jail Costs, lack of space possibly for Real Criminals. (Just look at the Overcrowding issue Dallas County has gone thri for several years.) and others.

There are no easy answers as each answer has it's own set problems associated with it. So here is what we have so far;

1. Let them Free-Range because they dont want to go into Shelters & other places we have created for them.(Guess this is where we are now. But the DYKWIA group dont like these citizens using Public Parks & such like they are doing now)

2. Arrest Them & keep them Jailed because they dont or wont take advantage of Free Shelters (Remember, the shelter cant force them to stay when the Police drop them off there) and they want to Free-Range

3. (Someone sent this to me on this subject previously) Allow the Cops to use them for Target Practice & just call it RESISTING ARREST. Problem Solved. (I guess they figure 1 dead homeless person is 1 less homeless person to deal with)

UncleScrappy
UncleScrappy

Depends on how much we want to violate Federal Law & these people's Civil Rights.

We have to remember they are CITIZENS also. Entitled to use Public Parks like everyone else. They sleep there because of Mental Health issues usually. (Also reason they like to Free-Range)

We can Pass Laws Prohibiting Sleeping & such. Then we have to enforce them. Tickets are useless as they dont have any $$$ to pay them. So they then get locked up. Now we are paying $$$ to house them, feed them & provide Medical care. Plus we are Overcrowding our Jail which is another issue we are constantly fifghting over.

There is no real easy answer to the problem. We have cut Mental Health care for these people so much, that we have in fact created this problem. We are going to have to learn to accept them being there & make sure that the Police enforce whatever is needed to prevent Violence or other crimes from being committed.

Bigmac Tony
Bigmac Tony

There is entertainment on Lower Greenville? Most entertaining thing I ever saw on that street were Mexican women being pepper sprayed by the cops while their leafblowing boyfriends were handcuffed in the parking lot next to Taco Cabana.

I didn't realize there were enough places left open to actually compromise a 'district'

Bigmac Tony
Bigmac Tony

Maybe UPS could lend the city some box vans for that. They sort of look like a Mercedes truck

Jason
Jason

Hey, RealTV. Stfu. Thanks. We got it. Greenan is a beneficiary. Who are you to judge his motives? Do you know him personally? Sounds like if he's a beneficiary then he can speak on the matters intelligently, whereas you are not contributing to the discussion at all.

RealTV
RealTV

Mr. Greenan - As the financial beneficiary of the proposed homeless shelter, its no wonder your so actively advocating on this issue. 

UncleScrappy
UncleScrappy

They Dont locate it in other areas because usually Downtown is where they congergate & where they can try & help them the most.

People in Dallas are trying to encourage Downtown Living by Upscale Citizens and they dont like seeing them around. They want to herd them into pens away from their Parks & other Public facilities that Citizens Tax Dollars pay for.

What we all have to remember is these people are also Citizens of Dallas & entitled to the use of these Public Parks the same as everyone else. (Including the DYKWIA sect)

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Cheaper than the Harry Hines site?  That site wouldn't have hurt the Farmer's Market.

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

There have been modest cuts in mental health funding so far, there are about to be major cuts in mental health funding. This is why it make no sense to build brand new facilites for the homeless only to line the pockets of developers (and homeless execs). 

The truly mentally ill receive disability and can usually find places to live, such as board and care homes. It's outpatient mental health services that are needed, not shiny new buildings.

Jb
Jb

CITIZENS?  Don't citizens pay taxes and contribute to their communities?  They don't just sleep in the parks; they urinate, defecate, and fornicate there and are generally a nuisance to anyone trying to enjoy the park.

Ben
Ben

I believe there is already a city wide ordinance in place that limits the hours of city park use to 6am-Midnight. That ordinance is strictly enforced at White Rock Lake where using the park after hours will score you a $500 ticket, near zero tolerance. No camping, no overnight parking, no drinking. Rules are pretty clear. I assume the same rules apply at Main Street Gardens.

Since many feel this is a sophisticated issue and that lowly rednecks such as myself should not speak of it....why not follow the European model for vagrants in parks. Pick a country in Western Europe, any country. They do not tolerate sleeping or vagrancy in city parks anytime of the day. You get a hard poke to your rib cage with a nightstick and a firm kick in the ass, just about anywhere. Paris, London, Munich, Geneva, Salzburg, Rome. They don't tolerate this. Neither should Dallas.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

The SA location was specifically chosen because it is NOT in what people consider downtown (I was working at SA City Hall at the time).  My point is that the Dallas Homeless Taskforce told us that the only way to deliver services effectively was to have the campus downtown.  I think that was a lie.

Jpgreenan
Jpgreenan

Phoenix has a downtown campus for the homeless and I regard Haven for Hope in San Antonio as downtown or near downtown (1.2 miles from city center). Portland just opened Bud Clark Commons in June and that's also a downtown or near downtown location (I don't know Portland well at all). 

G_David
G_David

They're going to use the tickets that the police write and wipe their asses with them.  I give up.  You are that dense.

Ben
Ben

You want us as citizens of Dallas to treat the homeless as any other residents. Fine by me. But at the same time you do not want any of the basic laws, rules and ordinances in place to apply to them? Justice is supposed to be blind. Laws apply equally to everyone. I think that since the law is very strictly enforced at White Rock Lake, zero tolerance, why can it not at Main Street Gardens? You cannot be in a park after curfew.

Photographers, amateur athletes, dog park users, elderly married couples watching submarine races, weirdo dudes at Flag Pole Hill, even a golf tournament analyst...have all gotten in trouble for being at the lake after hours. All these folks, many very public figures, from all walks of life, creeds, colors, religions have gotten in trouble being there after hours. What makes the bums at Main Street Garden exempt? Don't tell me because they are on the sauce or have some mental issues. The police smack Feherty's ass for using the park in the wee hours of the morning. Read one of his books. He would give any of your Main Street friends a run for the money in the drinker/mental department!

G_David
G_David

Dude, are you serious?  You're going to write them a ticket?  THAT'S your plan for homeless, often mentally ill people?   You can copy and paste the entire book of City of Dallas ordinances, you're completely wasting your time.  They enforce the law at White Rock against people in cars and jogging and such (although I've been there after hours dozens of times and have not been hassled once).  Those people go HOME when they are told to leave the park.  To even compare them with the folks in Main Street Gardens is ridiculous.  Are you doing schtick, or are you really that dense?

Ben
Ben

No. Dallas just needs to enforce the law on the books. They enforce it like crazy at White Rock Lake. Walk a dog or go for a run at the lake late at night and you are in big trouble.

Write the bums the same ticket at Main Street Gardens. Totally fair.

The city makes the 3 Day Cancer Walk women file for special permits to use the lake at night. They made a group of Navy SEALs do the same for a charity walk on Memorial Day Weekend.

Are cancer survivor women and Navy SEALs a lesser group of people than street bums? You tell me.

http://www.amlegal.com/nxt/gat...

Section 32 9-1

 (a)     Except as provided in Subsection (b), all public parks and park amenities are closed to the public each day from 11:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.      (b)     Park amenities for which the park board has established and posted the hours of operation under Section 32-9 of this chapter are closed to the public at any time other than the established and posted hours of operation.

     (c)     A person commits an offense if he is on the premises of a public park or park amenity during hours in which the park or park amenity is closed.

     (d)     It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (c) that the person was:

          (1)     driving a vehicle on an interior park roadway that provides direct access to the person's residence;

          (2)     attending a special event, activity, or program that was being conducted in a public park or park amenity during hours of closure with written permission of the park board, the director of park and recreation, or a designated representative; or

          (3)     entering or leaving, or engaged in legal boating on or fishing from the bank or water surface of, any of the following:

               (A)     Lake Ray Hubbard;

               (B)     Mountain Creek Lake;

               (C)     White Rock Lake;

               (D)     Lemmon Lake;

               (E)     Blue Lake;

               (F)     a body of water located within the Trinity River Greenbelt;

               (G)     that part of Joe Pool Lake within the city's jurisdiction; or

               (H)     Bachman Lake.

     (e)     For the purpose of this section:

          (1)     PARK AMENITY means any building, structure, facility, athletic area, or other improvement that is located within a public park.

          (2)     PUBLIC PARK means land owned or managed by the city, whether located inside or outside the city limits, that is planned, developed, or used for active or passive recreational use by the public.  "Public park" includes an interior park roadway, other than a dedicated street, and excludes any sidewalk adjacent to the outside perimeter of a park.  (Ord. Nos. 20680; 20964; 22073; 22404; 22851; 27993)

G_David
G_David

Okay, so you poke them, kick them in the ass, then what?  They walk across the street?  How does that solve the problem?  "Not tolerating" something and actually having a plan are not the same thing.

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