DALLAS -- As the Texas State Fair begins, a few blocks away an estimated 60 homeless individuals may still be calling a tent city home even after the fair wraps up.
Samuel Patterson, 61, is one of the dozens still living in tents under Interstate 30 at Haskell Avenue. He’s diabetic, admits he’s spent time in prison, struggles with drugs and alcohol, and has been homeless for the past two years. But now, along with everyone else in the tent city, he knows his days on Haskell Avenue are numbered.
"Wherever everybody else goes, I want to go with them,” he said when asked about the City of Dallas' plan to close the tent city in two phases during the month of October.
Section 1, the encampment south of S. Hill Avenue, will by agreement with various involved agencies, close on October 6. Section 2, between S. Hill and Haskell and where Patterson lives in a donated tent, will close on October 25.
"I believe the city of Dallas has a good idea to clean the streets up,” said Estrella Lopez with Star’s Lighthouse for the Homeless on a Friday visit to the site.
"Now that the fair is actually here their goal is to basically get these individuals out of eyesight of the people that are going to the fair," Lopez said. "But there's still no solution where we're going to put them."
But Cindy Crain, President and CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, says a solution is very much underway.
Yes, there was pressure, from various circles, to move the tent city before the fair began. But she says they had to find housing for at least 50 percent of the tent city residents before the process to move them could be put in motion. That happened just last week. So now the process starts.
Both sections are now clearly marked with signs that indicate the closure schedule.
MDHA outreach teams and CitySquare HOT Teams will begin daily on-site visits beginning October 3 and the step-by-step process of moving the homeless to safe housing alternatives will start.
The process means that the last portion of the tent city will close October 25, two days after the 2016 fair comes to an end.
"Get in a nice place, nice living environment, close to the grocery stores. Stuff like that,” Samuel said of his basic hopes.
Stuff, like a solution to homelessness, is proving difficult to find.
"Because at the end of the day the problem isn't going to go away. It’s only going to get bigger if everyone doesn't reach out to help,” said Lopez.
And fair or not, that effort by the city, and a city full of churches and charities, goes on.
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