A few months ago, we took Felecia Burns out on the road to help her get her question answered. She wanted to know why the City of Dallas couldn't close the homeless camp in her neighborhood.
That experience had a profound effect on her and helped lead to a change in her life.
“This is America. This is Dallas. Big D. And people have to resort to living like this. And to hear you say, 'This is someone's home. That's really, really sad,” she said, when we first toured the camp.
When Felecia contacted Verify, she wanted the camp closed and wanted to know why that wasn't happening. What we learned, together, is many homeless people are given government housing vouchers but very few landlords will accept them.
We went to go see Larry James with CitySquare, which provides housing and other services to low-income families.
“Landlords in Dallas are not under any obligation or any legal requirement to accept the payment of homeless person to lease an apartment. That's what we call payer source discrimination. It's a huge problem,” James told us.
Learning that, Felecia changed her focus from the problem in her neighborhood to the problem in the entire city.
“It’s not about closing the encampment anymore,” she told James. “It's about finding a permanent solution. That's where I'm coming from now. I have a broader viewer. Like the kids say, ‘I'm on ready-set-go,’” she said.
It’s three months later and Felecia has made a change in her life. She used to volunteer, once a month, at the Austin Street Center. Now, she’s their full-time chaplain.
“When I went out, with you all, for Verify I was able to see what this population had to deal with on a daily basis,” she said, while sitting in the chapel.
Next week, the City of Dallas plans to close another, large homeless encampment. There are still no plans for the camp in her neighborhood.
“It's gotten even larger. So, that's letting me know that we still are not meeting the people where they are,” she said.
After seeing the problem for herself, that's she's trying to do.
“The experience, what I did with you all, I felt like God wanted me to be able to go deeper,” Felecia said.
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