DALLAS—Mayor Tom Leppert and seven other big-city mayors in Texas recently joined forces to request $25 million from the state to combat homelessness.
The show of unity came in a February letter to Gov. Rick Perry. Leppert then made a similar plea to state Rep. Jim Pitts in May as the state Legislature discussed a budget plan. The state budget was still in the works at press time.
“We cannot underestimate the cost of doing nothing,” Leppert wrote to Pitts. “The cost is borne by local government as well as the state. People who are homeless are more likely to access costly health-care services, spend more time in jail or prison, and use a variety of public systems in an inefficient and costly way.”
Leppert and the other mayors say the state funding is needed to leverage local initiatives that provide housing and supportive services to the homeless.
Statewide, there are 44,000 homeless Texans. There are more than 5,500 homeless individuals in Dallas on any given night. In January, the city approved a permanent supportive-housing plan that sets the goal of developing 700 units in the next five years, and last year Dallas opened The Bridge, a homeless assistance center that accommodates up to 625 people per night.
Asked about affordable housing accomplishments, Dallas officials cited the establishment of a land bank to identify and foreclose on unproductive vacant properties that are sold to nonprofit and for-profit builders to develop affordable housing. The land bank has acquired 374 lots and is expected to acquire about 200 lots per year, with the majority being held until the market recovers.