This week Pastor Walker distributed the following letter to Mayor Eric Johnson, Dallas City Council members, and city staff:
Needless to say, COVID-19 and our crushing economy have created a perfect storm for a tidal wave of poverty. Here’s a quick overview along with a long-term plan OurCalling has devised to begin addressing the issue:
- HOMELESSNESS IS RAMPING UP. Approximately 10,000 men and women are homeless, another 300,000 people in Dallas/Fort Worth live below the poverty level, and thousands of newly unemployed face uncertainty about housing as bills pile up. Further, the number of homeless encampments are increasing in every Council district.
Unfortunately, the city is not equipped to accommodate the surge of residents – not only adults but also children – who will soon lack a roof over their heads.
- FAMILIES IN SEARCH OF FOOD. OurCalling is providing services to a growing number of families who aren’t homeless yet – but have no money for food.
- NO ROOM AT SHELTERS. Dallas homeless shelters are beyond capacity, full to the brim, turning people away each night. Social-distancing requirements have significantly reduced space, and none of the shelters are accepting single adults without a quarantine period.
- WHERE TO QUARANTINE? Until recently, homeless men and women quarantined at the Dallas Convention Center, but it closed August 15. Even if it had remained open, the Convention Center wouldn't be sufficient for the approaching deluge.
- NO CITY SERVICES FOR THE UNSHELTERED. As temperatures climb to dangerous levels, our city offers no available public bathrooms, no dignified options for basic human needs, no room in shelters and no affordable housing.
- LESS SHELTER BEDS THAN 10 YEARS AGO. Compounding the problem is that there were fewer available shelter beds in January of this year than 10 years ago!
- A HOMELESS PROBLEM YEARS IN THE MAKING. For decades, our city has ignored the infrastructure needs to meet the escalating demands resulting from a booming population and disheartening poverty rate.
At the brink of the pandemic, OurCalling sprung into action, teaming up with 80 partners who work with the homeless community throughout D/FW. Together, they’ve tackled everything from treatment of substance abuse to medical and mental health, to PPE protection, hand washing and sanitation stations, and meals to go. With a lack of available local resources for those experiencing homelessness OurCalling is pivoting, creating a first-of-its-kind program placement process for those suffering from substance abuse complete with wraparound services, including job training.
OurCalling also continues to empower homeless men and women by expanding the capabilities of its high-tech app, therein eliminating the digital divide and providing otherwise inaccessible data to those who need it most.But there’s only so much OurCalling can do with their limited resources. That’s why they’ve developed a proactive, long-term approach to not only reduce the number of people on the streets but change their lives in meaningful and sustainable ways:
- Hire and deploy 10 additional Search & Rescue teams to respond to the 650-plus homeless encampments reported each month throughout Dallas
- Begin placing individuals into long-term programs not only in Dallas but across the country
- Purchase a hotel and transform it into permanent supportive housing with full wrap around services
- Opening OurCalling’s new Women’s Center for those who have often dealt with sexual and physical abuse (Open early September)
Many people see homeless men and women and want to help in some way. Public support will advance this issue and boost the private funding needed to implement the plan.