Only housing will solve homeless camp problem


A homeless camp springs up under a bridge near downtown Fort Worth in 2013.
A homeless camp springs up under a bridge near downtown Fort Worth in 2013. Star-Telegram archives

Driving into downtown Fort Worth, you might see a homeless camp growing underneath an overpass.

Each day, one more tent pops up. It continues until city workers sweep in and dismantle the site, referring people to services while carting items away.

Code compliance and parks workers recently cleared out 18 Fort Worth homeless camps. Some of those sites already have new “residents.”

Although people are referred to shelters, many return to encampments seeking safety or freedom that might not exist at an emergency shelter.

“Some of the ‘campers’ may seek residence in one of our emergency shelters, but more often than not people scatter for awhile then regroup, forming encampments elsewhere,” Bruce Frankel, DRC executive director, wrote in an email. “Ultimately, this is not the long-term solution to ending unsheltered homelessness.”

DRC, formerly known as the Day Resource Center, focuses on a “housing first” strategy.

Both DRC and the city are trying to rehouse the homeless population. The city’s Directions Home program started in 2008 with the aggressive goal of ending chronic homelessness in Fort Worth by 2018.

The City Council concluded, in 2014, that reaching that goal would require $6 million a year, and the city could afford less than half that.

Still, managing the cycle of tent camps takes time and resources. And it never ends.