At Heritage Village in Dallas, kids learn how it used to be. Old buildings bring the past to life.

But, just beyond the fence, a growing number of tents show a different kind of life. Homeless people call it home.

Piles of trash and clothes are building up on the embankment. Two pit bulls bark a warning not to get too close. Since Dallas began closing down Tent City under Interstate 45, a few more tents are popping up along the I-30 service road near St Paul.

"You look over and you see they've got blankets and clothes hung over the fence,” said Sharon Daughrity. “I mean, who knows? Can they get in here and walk around?"

Daughrity and other chaperones told us they would not have brought school groups if they had known about the homeless camp.

Residents of Tent City have relocated their tents to new spots, including next to a popular field trip destination in Dallas.
Residents of Tent City have relocated their tents to new spots, including next to a popular field trip destination in Dallas.

"They said there were 700 school kids out here visiting the park," she said. “This is not good.”

The kids seemed not to notice Friday. Laughter echoed across shady lawns between the 1800’s little white church, and the barn and depot.

The executive director of Heritage Village said a few tents have been there since 2014. There are about a dozen now.

"We don't know how many people are not visiting here because they don't feel safe," Melissa Prycer said. She said she does know some people are not coming, or not coming back.

Brides have canceled because they're afraid guests would be uncomfortable. Prycer says Heritage Village is working with the city and private groups to find a better solution.

"We haven't had any overt vandalism, but our night security guards have certainly had many interactions with folks living back there," she said.

She’s worried about someone starting a fire.

Some who have left the I-45 Tent City find shelter beneath I-30 at Haskell. An outreach minister says 43 turned into 53 in two days this week.

Tent City
Tent City

Cindy Crain, head of Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, says new case workers will soon reach out to people camping outside Heritage Village to begin the process of meeting their needs so the area can be cleaned up.

One of the men standing outside a tent Friday afternoon is named Richard. He says he’s 50, but looks older. He has a ragged gray beard and sun-creased forehead. In a soft and slurred voice, he says he tries not to be a distraction when school children are nearby.

"I just duck into the tent. Get out of sight.” he said. “It's bad enough for them to see the tent. Don’t need to see me, too.”

We ask why: “I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Bad influence.”