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Houston Gets a Handle on Homelessness While Dallas Struggles

Formerly playing host to almost double the homeless population of Dallas, Houston has addressed the problem with some success over the past decade. Meanwhile, rising costs have fueled a growing crisis in Dallas.
July 15, 2019, 10am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Homeless counts in the Houston area show a very promising 54 percent decrease since 2011, Juan Pablo Garnham reports. Meanwhile, the problem is growing in other major Texas metros, especially Dallas.

Part of the secret behind Houston's success, Garnham writes, is HUD assistance. In a process beginning in 2010, HUD designated the Houston metro area as a priority community of assistance, opening up channels of funding. Beginning with military veterans, the city launched a plan that relied heavily on improved coordination between agencies and organizations. The Houston Housing Authority has been a central part of the effort to create permanent supportive housing for those on the streets.

Houston also debuted a digital system to track cases of homelessness and manage responses. "Most cities today have [a Homeless Management Information System] in place, but Houston was quick to adopt it, and that helped organizations strategize, analyze, share information and find personalized solutions," Garnham writes. 

Meanwhile in Dallas, strong growth and a bumper housing market are leaving more and more people behind. "'Our homelessness numbers reflect the increase in housing costs across the Metroplex,' said Daniel Roby, CEO of the Austin Street Center, one of the biggest shelters in the city."

According to Roby, Houston currently has "some governmental advantages" over Dallas, including "a strong mayoral form of government." He reflected on how difficult it can be to build a coordinated response in his city. "We [in Dallas] need to collaborate to get the support here, while [in Houston], the mayor can just move on with the mayor's agenda."

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Published on Tuesday, July 2, 2019 in The Texas Tribune
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