The battle against homelessness goes on


Angel Coleman was one of several homeless people living in a homeless tent camp in Fort Worth on Thursday, March 26, 2015.
Angel Coleman was one of several homeless people living in a homeless tent camp in Fort Worth on Thursday, March 26, 2015. Star-Telegram

The Tarrant County Homeless Coalition has released its annual “State of the Homeless” report, and the homeless population is rising. That’s disappointing, but Fort Worth must continue its aggressive approach to ending chronic homelessness.

Chronic homelessness involves a person with “a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more” or “has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years,” says the Housing and Urban Development Department.

In 2008, Fort Worth started an ambitious program for the homeless, putting together a 10-year plan to solve the city’s problem of chronic homelessness.

The City Council adopted the Directions Home plan, which emphasized “housing first.”

New shelters, better resources, tougher patrols and more community awareness came next. Fort Worth tried to work on the “homeless district” on East Lancaster Avenue.

Then the area itself and its stagnating economy became a problem. There are homeless people in many areas away from Lancaster, but the resources and shelters were focused there.

The city then decided to try to build shelters and low-income housing away from the district, but that met resistance from neighborhoods.

The residents didn’t want the housing because they believed it would lower property values and/or raise crime activity.

And all this costs money.

In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the city budgeted only $2.3 million for homeless programs — $3.1 million less than the city budgeted on animal care and control.

City Council members said in 2014 that they needed an additional $6 million annually to be on track for the 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness in 2018. A task force made recommendations that same year, staying in line with the lofty goals.

Still, it’s 2016 and homelessness is on the rise, not declining as planned. It’s enough to give the people trying to solve the problem something akin to runner’s fatigue

The Jan. 28 head count found 1,985 homeless people in Tarrant and Parker counties, up from 1,914 in the 2015 count.

Maybe the planned 10-year sprint to end chronic homelessness has become more like a marathon.