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What we learned about homelessness in Collin County at the Freedom Forum

For the first time on September 11, Agape Resource and Assistant Center gathered members of the community together to hear the facts about poverty and homelessness in Collin County, an epidemic that is primarily made up of women and children.

As Roslyn Dawson Thompson, President and CEO of Dallas Women’s Foundation says, “If our women are financially secure, so too are our families.”

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Homelessness in Collin County | By David Downs

 

Here are the facts:

61 percent of families in the area rely on women’s income, making them female-headed families, who tend to be at higher risk for housing burdens. Local nonprofits like Dallas Women’s Foundation have found that housing cost barriers are worse for women of color. Homelessness in Collin County primarily effects these populations.

82 percent of households in Collin County that receive housing vouchers, which ease the housing burden, were women-headed households with children.

But there are not nearly enough apartment complexes that offer vouchers. For every 100 families that need housing vouchers, there are only 19 apartments available that take them.

Nonprofits from all over the DFW area collaborated at Chase Oaks Church; guest speakers included Larry James (CEO, CitySquare), Roslyn Dawson Thompson (President & CEO, Dallas Women’s Foundation), and Dr. Timothy Bray (The Institute for Urban Policy Research at the University of Texas at Dallas).

Wealth gap in Dallas is highest if any city of its size in the country and the divide is growing. Dallas sees high poverty rates for single women with children and as the wealth gap has grown, numbers of homeless and in-crisis families have only grown. Dallas has been facing these problems for years. Soon, so will Collin County. And we are not prepared.

Affordable housing is incentivised by the City of Plano and yet private developers are hesitant to build it because it is less profitable. But if there is not affordable housing–housing for all–the system begins to feel the strain. The restaurant industry is a good example.

Dallas Morning News reported in April that restaurants in the area have already begun feeling the effects of a labor shortage. Waitstaff are becoming difficult to find as more and more restaurants open, housing costs rise and wait staff find themselves moving further and further out of the city in order to afford housing. Often they rely on public transportation which makes commutes longer, meaning restaurants are threatened by shrinking staffs and growing pay checks. For the rest of us, that means bigger bills and longer waits.

But much more importantly, once a family is in crisis, it becomes more and more difficult to climb out of the financial hole.

The main economic issues for women in Texas are: health insurance, childcare, education and housing. Dr. Timothy Bray calls housing “the anchor of economic security.” 

Surprisingly, 6.7 percent (61,133) of county residents live at or below the poverty threshold. But as Dr. Bray explains, there are many more residents who are struggling on the brink. “Poverty threshold means that if you are below this line, you’re mortally wounded—not if you’re above this line, you’re okay.”

When a woman with children is evicted, the impact to her family is similar as if she went to jail. There is a pronounced long-term negative impact. Studies have shown that kids who move often and have insecure housing are under such high stress that it affects the development of their brains. 

Janet Collinsworth, founder of Agape, closed with a call to action: do one thing this month, to find one nonprofit to support, or one way to help make a difference. She asked listeners to make themselves heard, speak to city government about the need for affordable housing, vouchers, and legal help for those living penny to penny.

She called for us to “respond with empathy” for the women and children currently facing eviction.

Read more: Behind Suburbia: Homelessness in Collin County

Full list of agencies involved:

Agape Resource and Assistance Center
Allen Community Outreach
Blake’s House
Christ United Methodist Church
Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints
CitySquare
City House, Inc.
Collin County Cares
Community Lifeline Center
Dallas Women’s Foundation
Frisco Family Services
Highland Park United Methodist Church
The Institute for Urban Policy Research at the University of Texas at Dallas
Julia’s Center
Junior League of Collin County
Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance
New Friends New Life
North Texas Job Corps
Oasis Center
On the Road Lending
The Samaritan Inn
Shiloh Place McKinney
Skill Quest
St. Vincent de Paul
Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation
Veterans Center of North Texas

Alexandra Cronin
Alexandra Cronin has a Bachelor's in English (with a concentration in Creative Writing) from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. After graduation she wrote for The Resident magazine in London, before returning to home. She loves great coffee, good food and average wine.

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