[Hpn] Homeless Consortium plan for downtown Dallas - Your Opinion?

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Thu, 25 May 2000 21:08:59 -0700 (PDT)


Which Recommendations, of the proposed "long-range plan for dealing with
homeless people downtown" in Dallas, would you Support OR Oppose in your
community?

Why?  How?  When?  With whom?

Is Dallas' "downtown homeless" planning process cited below democratic?
Why or why not?

The following news article outlines the plan proposed for Dallas, TX, USA:

http://dallasnews.com/metro/80733_HOMELESS17.html
FWD  Dallas Morning News / May 17, 2000
     [Texas, USA]

     PANEL OFFERS DALLAS A PLAN ON HOMELESS

     COUNCIL TO CONSIDER WAYS TO SOLVE DOWNTOWN ISSUE

     By Lori Stahl / The Dallas Morning News

After years of relying on sporadic police crackdowns against street people,
the Dallas City Council will consider recommendations released Tuesday that
outline the first long-range plan for dealing with homeless people downtown.

The proposals, developed after months of sometimes-contentious debate, come
as downtown is experiencing an unprecedented influx of upscale renters and
small businesses.

The recommendations by the Homeless Consortium - a loosely knit group of
advocates for the homeless, merchants, government officials and others -
are intended to ease friction between street people and others. Proposals
range from providing more public toilets to coordinating surveillance from
cameras atop downtown office towers.

The plan contains no cost estimates. A City Council committee is scheduled
to review the recommendations June 12.

Among other things, the plan calls for a full-time city staff position and
computerized tracking of the homeless as they make their way through the
system of service providers.

Consortium members acknowledged that some items would be expensive but said
the biggest hurdles might be political, not financial.

For example, "street feeders," the slang name for church congregations that
hand out food on the sidewalk, are considered a nuisance because their
gatherings often generate trash. However, a survey of other cities showed
that none has successfully discouraged the faith-based feeders.

"We didn't want to get into the business of writing tickets for people
feeding on the street," said Mike Anderson, operations director for the
downtown Neiman Marcus, who headed a panel that developed the plan. Many of
the issues the consortium grappled with seemed to pit the individual rights
of street people against commercial interests.

Property owner Herschel Weisfeld said that the city should confine services
for the homeless to a central area away from downtown and that items stored
outdoors, such as cardboard boxes used for shelter, "should be cleaned up."

However, the consortium recommended meeting with law enforcement agencies
to determine the best courses of action.

"We were not willing to put any teeth in it," Mr. Weisfeld complained.

But Karen Boudreaux of the city's health department said the talks would be
a logical starting point.

"The police specifically said they weren't going to go in and do sweeps at
random," she said. "What comes out of the dialogue determines what's legal
and what's fair."

Mr. Anderson agreed. "We want the Police Department to help us solve this
problem rather than become the enemy," he said.

Mr. Weisfeld said he was equally frustrated by a recommendation to install
trash bins in areas where "street feeders" offer food.

"You're saying, if you put a Dumpster here, 'This is where you can feed,' "
he said.

But Paige Flink, co-chair of the consortium and executive director of The
Family Place, a shelter for battered women, said the issue was "dealing
with reality."

"Street feeders are going to feed," she said. "We're trying to create a
compromise."

Mr. Anderson of Neiman Marcus said problems cited by some merchants - from
vandalism to vagrancy - are mostly confined to the edges of downtown,
particularly near the Farmers Market and Cedars neighborhoods.

"Do my customers have problems with the homeless? No. Do my employees? No,"
Mr. Anderson said.
Although some business owners contend street people scare off potential
customers, some service providers say homeless people are the victims of
crime as often as they are the perpetrators.

"The homeless people themselves said they were preyed upon," said Ms.
Boudreaux of the city health department.

END FORWARD

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**

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