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Dallas' Homeless Are Disproportionately Black; One Organization Has Ideas For How To Change That

Vincent Amos, who identified himself as homeless, pulls a shopping cart with his belongings amid businesses closed by concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas. Amos said his shelter in place routine includes walking the area looking for work cleaning windows.
Vincent Amos, who identified himself as homeless, pulls a shopping cart with his belongings amid businesses closed by concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas. Amos said his shelter in place routine includes walking the area looking for work cleaning windows.

A report on race and homelessness in Dallas found that there’s an over representation of Black people experiencing homelessness in the city.

About 67% of individuals experiencing homelessness in Dallas are Black, while this demographic makes up 19% of the population.

This disproportionate number of people of color in the homeless population “is a testament to the historic and persistent structural racism that exists in this country,” the report's authors said.

The study was conducted by The Center for Social Innovation’s Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities (SPARC).

“To not even know where you are going to spend your night. And then I want you to think about Black folks who are over represented here and the kind of day to day trauma they are experiencing because they are Black. All of those inequities all of those quote microaggressions that are coming at them,” SPARC Director Regina Cannon said.

The report, originally published in 2018, was presented during a City of Dallas Housing and Homeless Solutions Committee for the first time Monday. This comes as the Office of Homeless Solutions is in search of a new director.

Cannon said to address the problem, city officials must understand the trauma Black homeless people deal with.

“This gave us an action plan on how in proactive matter we can literally end homelessness through a racial equity lens,” Casey Thomas II, the committee's chair, said.

Findings from the report are based on interviews with people of color experiencing homelessness and data collected from a demographic survey. The SPARC team collected 23 oral histories in Dallas in February of 2017.

The report zoomed in on how Black people, in particular, are more likely to become homeless than people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. It also identified some of the barriers to exiting homelessness — individuals having a criminal records, not finding a job, few affordable housing options and difficulty understanding how to navigate assistance programs.

“A homeless response system should be built around making sure that people always, always know where to go to get help and that it is culturally appropriate help and services,” Cannon said.

The study recommends involving other entities such as criminal justice, child welfare, foster care, education, and healthcare into the strategy -- and implementing solutions.

SPARC calls it a “multi-system approach” to ending homelessness.

Cannon said it’s not just enough to think about diversity, but to focus on the systems that are failing Black people — those with discriminatory practices.

“Every single system has a role to play in ensuring that everyone has safe, stable housing in communities in which they can thrive and so what we need in intentional alignment,” she said.

At the meeting, Thomas requested a racial equity audit of the City of Dallas’ comprehensive housing policy and the Office of Homeless Solutions.

Following SPARC’s guidance he hopes to strengthen opportunities for economic mobility in communities of color, fold equity measures into their plan to address homelessness and diversify leadership to make it happen.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @_martinez_ale.

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Copyright 2021 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.