Public hearing set on homelessness

06/21/2014 12:00 AM

06/20/2014 6:30 PM

The network of homeless assistance in Fort Worth is a complex, multi-layered and diverse set of programs that has evolved over the years, and continues to do good work for a population that has many more problems than the lack of housing.

There is evidence that there is a lot of inter-agency collaboration and coordination as public, private and faith-based organizations work daily to serve the thousands of people in our community who, for whatever reason, find themselves on the streets.

Still, “demand continues to outpace the capacity of the system to provide the breadth and depth of services that are needed to more efficiently help people return to permanent housing.”

That was one of the findings of the ad hoc Task Force on Homelessness that was appointed by the Fort Worth City Council in April.

Charged with a number of tasks, including assessing the general efficiency and effectiveness of the homeless service delivery system, the group has met with area experts on the issue, agency providers and city staff to measure the scope of the problem as well as analyze the flow of financial resources associated with the services.

The 10-member task force, co-chaired by Councilmembers Kelly Allen Gray and Danny Scarth, has issued its interim report which shows that about 5,200 people will experience homelessness this year in our community, with around 2,400 at any one time. The major reasons, the report says, are inability to afford rent, domestic violence (women) and unemployment (men).

“Fort Worth citizens have a significant financial interest in decreasing homelessness — especially chronic homelessness,” the report said. “Costs incurred by the community are in terms of cash, lost opportunity, quality of life and human lives.”

The report notes the findings of a Texas Christian University-led study which shows that “charges for taxpayer-funded services at the JPS Hospital, MHMR and MedStar were reduced 36 percent after the individual was moved off the streets or out of a shelter and into housing.”

In addition, “by moving people out of homelessness, the return on the investment in supportive housing improved neighborhood conditions as well as the health and self-sufficiency of individuals.”

City funding this fiscal year for homeless services is $2.5 million, but the task force said the City Council should allocate a “minimum” of $3 million in next year’s budget to support community- and faith-based partners in addressing the needs of the homeless.

The task force is expected to conclude its work by July 8, and is charged with presenting its final report to the council by July 22.

But before it does that, the committee members want to hear from you. They have scheduled an open house and public hearing beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday night at First United Methodist Church, 800 W. Fifth St. A copy of the interim report is available online on the city’s website.

During the first hour residents will have an opportunity to meet with agency representatives and city staff to learn about the wide range of services provided for the homeless. The formal public hearing will begin at 7 p.m., where speakers will be allowed three minutes to talk about ways to streamline the funding and delivery of services.

Comments may also be submitted in writing at the meeting and online:

This is your opportunity to be heard.

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