• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Dallas sweeps a homeless camp

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Jul 18, 2022

About 30 people carried what they could and headed elsewhere Monday morning as the city cleared a homeless encampment in south Dallas. Few of the people at the camp will see permanent accommodation in the near future.

The camp, located on private land between Parnell and Gould streets in South Dallas, is the most recent to be cleared by the city. Residents of the camp, whom the city is encouraging to move into nearby shelters, were given six days’ notice.

Bobby Hughes, a former landscaper who stayed at the camp, struggled to keep his tent, sleeping bag and pillows stacked on a shopping cart while he wheeled a cooler behind him. He said he was heading to another camp under Interstate 45.

“About a 10 minute walk from here,” he said. “This is hell.”

Behind him, Dee Brooks was still packing, filling shopping carts with her clothes and scrap metal that she hopes to sell for cash. After gathering her little things, she pulled her two-person tent across the street.

Just then, a bulldozer entered his area of ​​the pitch, kicking up dirt and tearing up tents that had been abandoned.

Bobby Hughes took South Malcolm Boulevard X to a new location to set up camp, driving away from Parnell Gould’s camp on Monday July 18, 2022.(Liesbeth Powers/Staff Photographer)

One belonged to his neighbor, who Brooks says is usually away during the day.

“She didn’t believe they were coming,” she said.

Nine encampments have been successfully decommissioned so far, according to Office of Homelessness Solutions Director Christine Crossley. The office, in conjunction with the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, worked to register as many people as possible for housing under Dallas’ Real-Time Rapid Rehousing Program before the sites were swept.

For this camp, they had not started this process.

“Parnell and Gould wasn’t something we had on the DRTRR radar right now because the request to clean it went through private property, it went through code,” she said, making reference to Dallas Code compliance.

Placing people from the camp into the program would have taken between four and six weeks, she said. Before clearing another camp in May, between Meyers and Jeffries streets, the office was able to move more than 40 people to the relocation program in just over two months.

They mainly encourage residents of the Parnell Gould camp to go to shelters. Many are reluctant to do so.

Dee Brooks dragged some of her belongings out of Parnell Gould's camp before a...
Dee Brooks dragged some of her belongings out of the Parnell Gould camp ahead of a city clearing of the site on Monday July 18, 2022. She moved two carts and a tent across the street, where she planned to reevaluate where she might go next.(Liesbeth Powers/Staff Photographer)

Marci Jackson, community liaison with Homeless Solutions, said the camp is being cleaned up but not officially decommissioned, which means the city won’t strictly enforce if people continue to live there.

Lot owner Dennis Topletz of Topletz Investments said the city threatened to inflict code violations on him if his property wasn’t clean, prompting him to raise his arms over the situation. He said he currently has no construction plans at the site.

“My problem is that the city is on me and people are on my property, which is causing the problem,” he said.

A Dallas Code Compliance spokesperson expressed concern.

“The purpose of the cleanup is to eliminate health and safety hazards present on the premises,” they said, adding that the decision was made in conjunction with Homeless Solutions and city leaders.

According to a recent report by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, the number of chronically homeless people in Dallas – people who have been homeless for more than a year – is on the rise. Currently, there are more than 1,000 chronically homeless people in Dallas, nearly twice as many as in 2021.

Living without a home in Dallas has become particularly dangerous in recent weeks. Temperatures are reaching deadly levels for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, and COVID cases are also rising, making living in cramped quarters, which includes shelters, risky.

While Brooks and Hughes moved their belongings, activists from Say It With Your Chest and the Dallas Liberation Movement were on the other side of the camp protecting a pile of items that other camp residents had asked them to store. .

Kaitlin Siebert and Julia Paramo (center) spoke to Dallas Marshal officers outside the...
Kaitlin Siebert and Julia Paramo (center) speak with Dallas Marshal officers outside Camp Parnell Gould during a city clearing of the site Monday, July 18, 2022. They had time to bring the transportation of some of the personal effects that would otherwise be discarded during cleaning.(Liesbeth Powers/Staff Photographer)

One of the residents they were helping, Cedric Hubbard, was putting his neighbors’ belongings in the pile. The neighbors were nowhere in sight. He was running out of time though. “I’m not going to keep their stuff,” he said.

Support groups spent several days before the sweep helping people transport their belongings in a U-Haul. One of the activists, Michael Kabtimer, admits there is not much they can do.

“Regardless of whether we’re there or not, these sweeps are going to happen…all we’re doing is trying to make this process as easy as possible,” Kabtimer said. “All of these people have homes, they all live in Dallas. They don’t all have homes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not your neighbors.