A few years ago I invited a friend on a run near my then Lake Highlands neighborhood. We ran from Woodbridge up Walnut past Richland and Texas Instruments to Cottonwood Trail. That’s where she freaked out. As we jogged past a homeless encampment — more like a tent city — I waved. Her reaction reminded me that this might not be normal or acceptable. I mean, it’s not, but also this problem looms so large that you can work yourself into acceptance. You also feel for the human beings who live there. It’s a heavy, nuanced issue.
The sensitive jogging buddy since relocated to California, and I am not sure how much I had to do with that (I kid), but would be happy to know the City is working on it, and, in fact, Dallas’ R.E.A.L. Time Rapid Rehousing Initiative last week “decommissioned” a portion of that camp and placed the inhabitants in programming.
“Encampments covering half of the Cottonwood Trail were decommissioned, and a total of 17 people were enrolled in programming with case workers and wraparound services and are in the process of being housed,” according to the latest District 10 newsletter. “Site-closure signage is now posted at the site, which is monitored by the Office of Homeless Solutions and the Dallas Police Department. Due to the size of the encampment, the second half of the trail will be closed in a second decommissioning in the coming weeks.”
The scope of the problem was outlined in this 2021 presentation from the Dallas Park Department, which pinpoints 281 such encampments on Dallas Park property, which was up from 135 the previous year.
Solving the problem that is homeless encampments on park property is up to several City departments including Dallas Park and Recreation Department, Office of Homeless Solutions Outreach, Dallas Animal Services and the Dallas Police Department, according to that presentation.
Pets owners in the decommissioned encampments are offered resources from Animal Services and the City hires contractors to clean up the waste, which can be a lot.
The City allocated $106,000 for encampment resolution for fiscal year 2020-21 (administrative/staff labor and contracted services). When COVID arrived, the City manager’s office temporarily suspended the decommission of these camps.
On March 19, 2021, several departments met to evaluate the numerous encampments along Cottonwood Trail. The area is so problematic that it has its own “chronic encampment strategy.” Last May Dallas staff visited Austin and met with their Park Department homeless response coordinator. Austin has annual budget of $525,000.00 allocated for cleaning encampment sites.
Dallas Police are continuing to document and report encampment locations to the office of homeless solutions, talk to inhabitants and make their presence known, according to the most recent presentation. If the camps spill onto private property, the owners are notified and may be cited of they do not take action.
2022-23 budget meeting for D10 is March 31. More here.