Mayor, partners seek emergency help for homeless families
Oct 20, 2022 - 03:56 AM
The number of homeless families in Fort Worth has reached critical levels, and City, County and Tarrant County Homeless Coalition leadership are acting swiftly to address the issue.
Street outreach workers report significant numbers of families seeking shelter for the first time, according to the TCHC and Directions Home, the City of Fort Worth unit that coordinates housing services and resources for homeless families.
Shelters have surpassed capacity, and community leaders fear the situation could worsen. To better address the situation, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker coordinated a meeting of stakeholders and partners to talk about immediate ways to approach the situation.
Part of what was shared with the group included the fact that the number of families experiencing homelessness have been rising since April, and an expected slowdown in mid-September never came. Rising rents coupled with the elimination of the eviction moratorium and federal rental assistance are among several factors for the rise in family homelessness.
From July through September, an average 162 families were homeless at any given time in Tarrant and Parker counties. Of that, 138 families, or 85%, were in Fort Worth.
Lauren King, TCHC’s executive director, was a member of the group Parker convened.
“This is a stark contrast to COVID,” King said. “Now, for us, it really feels like we have a lot of families in our community who really were perhaps on the edge, or doubled up and living with relatives and their family members are also on the edge. They can’t make ends meet anymore.”
Parker, King and Tarrant County leadership are investigating numerous potential solutions to the issues, including one idea that could involve buying a property that can be quickly used as a shelter and later converted to permanent housing.
“It’s a complicated problem to deal with. There’s probably going to be a series of short-term solutions that we need to come up with, and long-term solutions,” Parker said.
These options come in addition to months of investments in housing solutions. Fort Worth recently awarded more than $17 million in local, private and federal funds to develop 128 permanent supportive housing units and is expected to invest $4.6 million more, as well as $8 million in homeless family units, totaling $29.6 million.
The City also reallocated federal funds to focus specifically on rapidly rehousing families.
More affordable housing is on the horizon countywide. Tarrant County is using $32.5 million in federal funds to develop 254 affordable housing units for people experiencing homelessness and is currently looking for developers.
“I consider this a crisis because of who it’s impacting – our families and children,” Parker said. “I’m not the only mayor in Texas with this problem right now.”
Parker and TCHC are also working with churches and charitable organizations, sharing options to help by donating money to address family homelessness. Options could include providing food for families staying in overflow, supporting family shelter holiday programs, sponsoring a family moving into housing or getting back on their feet, or donating gas cards to families to get to work.
To learn more, email the Tarrant County Housing Coalition.
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