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Homelessness: No Easy Fixes... Convention Center Again Reopens As Emergency Shelter

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - In Dallas, with freezing temperatures expected again overnight, homeless advocates are applauding the city's decision to open the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as an emergency shelter.

According to the city, 307 people were able to sleep safely there on Monday night. And it was a scramble among agencies throughout the city to get them there.

"We had vans driving to CitySquare, The Stewpot, everybody driving vans around, picking up homeless folks, dropping them off at the convention center, making sure they were getting into a safe place," says Patrick Palmer, with Our Calling, a homeless outreach center located just south of downtown. "Our outreach teams were climbing under bridges, knocking on tents, asking people to come out and get into the warmth and it was received with arms wide open by the homeless community."
And then there's Diane. The 63 year old came to the convention center... but, ultimately spent the night outside, near one of the walls.

"Oh, no, I did that in the 90s", she shared when asked why she wouldn't take advantage of the emergency shelter, telling us that she would rather be alone, even in the cold. We asked her how she managed.

"Blankets, blankets, blankets... and I take Nyquil," she explained, while sitting on those blankets on a sidewalk in the shadow of Dallas City Hall. "It helps get the cold away from me."

Miss Diane would be what the experts call 'resistant to services'. Or is it the expected consequence of too many disappointments? She says her experience with agencies who claim to want to help, went something like this:
"We gonna find you an efficiency you can afford at a motel... I say, 'fine.' And I sit and I waited and waited and waited and they never came back and told me that they found one... and yet they always run up and say 'you still living on the street?' "

"There's a proverb that says hope deferred makes the heart sick, and when you have a sick heart, someone saying 'come into the warmth' just say 'I'd rather not'," says Palmer. "You've given up hope on the city, you've given up hope on the agencies. It's not going to be a cold night that's going to change that sick heart...time, relational equity and really an investment in that person's life before they're going to be willing to step out of that tent."

Palmer says there are some 10,000 homeless in the city of Dallas and just 2600 shelter beds. So even with temporary beds added on cold days, only a fraction of the homeless will be reached. Even if they wanted the help.

"I'm fine," insists Miss Diane. "We got several months before cold be over... yeah, I know."


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