Fort Worth homeless program hopes to evade budget cuts




Posted on July 22, 2010 at 7:30 PM

FORT WORTH — Homeless people still shuffle through the streets of Fort Worth, but in the last 14 months, 320 of them have gotten new starts thanks to Directions Home.

James Tapscott was one of the program's first clients. Thanks to city-backed vouchers, he has an apartment and a job.

"Without it right now, I would probably be dead," Tapscott said.

The program to house the homeless costs the city $2.9 million. Vouchers cover up to 70 percent of the rent for more than 200 clients.

Otis Thornton, the city's homelessness coordinator, says those clients are at risk if the City Council trims its budget.

"If we experience a large cut to the program, we'd be talking about things like evictions... and we don't want that," Thornton said.

Thanks to city money, Fort Worth is hailed by the federal government as a leader in the nationwide effort to house 100,000 homeless Americans in the next three years.

An independent study showed 88 percent of Directions Home clients remain off the streets. Those might be the numbers the Council considers during budget talks.

James Tapscott said those are more than numbers — they represent lives, including his.

"It's taking people that — in my case — were a complete burden on society, and turning us into productive citizens that are grateful enough to give back."

The city manager will present a budget to the Council in August; the Council will vote on a final spending plan in September.