By Scott Blair
Texas has around 26,000 homeless people, and Dallas has the largest homeless population in the state. The worst part is that the numbers are going up. There are several reasons for the homelessness situation in Texas such as drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, and lack of affordable housing [among other issues].
President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness Nan Roman says Texas lacks 9,000 beds for homeless people. The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a nonpartisan organization that analyzes data to find solutions for homelessness.
Roman says, “In Texas, you have a big deficit in the number of beds for individuals,” Roman said. “Unsheltered homelessness really is a crisis. … People who are unsheltered have very poor health outcomes and much, much worse health than sheltered people.”
The latest figures from Texas show Black people account for 37.2% of the homeless population.
Drugs & Alcohol
According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 38% of homeless individuals are addicted to alcohol, and 26% are addicted to drugs. Addiction can cause financial problems, relationship issues, and legal issues, which can lead to homelessness. A 2007 study found that two-thirds of homeless people said drug or alcohol addiction was the main reason for their situation.
On the other hand, homelessness can cause one to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. People use it as a coping mechanism. However, it only compounds the problem.
Mental illness can lead to a person being unable to hold a job and end up homeless. Mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and extreme depression can also lead to homelessness. Stressors and triggers such as abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or significant loss can also lead to homelessness.
Psychiatric hospitalizations and isolation can contribute to the problem. Lack of access to mental health care due to governmental policies exacerbate the issue and tends to lead to homelessness as well.
Lack of Housing
The price of homes in Texas has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, leading to a spike in homeless citizens. Affordable housing has shrunk due to a successful economy and the price of rent skyrocketing. On top of that, the housing inventory is declining every year.
Programs for Homeless People Shutting Down
Regarding programs that help the homeless, it’s a double-edged sword. Both governmental policies and the effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns lingering have dealt a blow to organizations and facilities that help homeless people in Texas.
“COVID-19 and extreme winter weather greatly impacted individuals, organizations, and systems, including our homeless rehousing system,” Joli Angel-Robinson of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) said. “Although these events have impacted all of us, the trends supported by this year’s PIT count data are a direct result of our community’s tremendous commitment to serving our unhoused neighbors, increasing housing interventions, and building our system’s overall capacity to effectively serve those experiencing homelessness,” she said.
Another issue is that the rapid rehousing program hasn’t seemed to work. Due to that, chronic homelessness and a “return to homelessness” have increased.
Moving forward, there is much to be done regarding the homeless situation in Dallas and all of Texas. Advocacy is a good place to start, while lobbying lawmakers to increase the budget for certain services will help as well. There is no magic bullet. However, with persistence, the problem can at the very least be helped.