Written by Elissa Romines
Just south of downtown, beneath the I-45 overpass, hundreds of tents formed Dallas' largest homeless encampment. We called it "Tent City;" its dwellers called it home.
Tuesday, May 3 was designated to be the official "shut down" day for Tent City. In the weeks leading up to its closure, the five-block encampment underwent systematic sweeps until only a few of our friends remained. May 3 arrived. We helped our friends pack up, loaded up our cars with everything they owned, and drove them to their new home.
Where was their new home?
Another encampment. Less than half a mile away. On the same street. Beneath the same overpass.
The truth is, it's not about the change in location. Social structures had existed within the previous encampment for years, providing a sense of familiarity and order-- similar to the way we experience our own neighborhoods. When the tents were torn down, the social structures disappeared with them. The result was a significant destabilization of the remaining community. Nonetheless, on May 3, Tent City closed.
Two homeless encampments remained.
It's been less than three months since we unloaded our friends' belongings at one of these encampments. Today, July 19, this same encampment was shut down by the City of Dallas. This closure, however, did not come with a relocation plan.
Perhaps the most devastating result-- for the homeless and for us-- is the increased victimization of the most vulnerable in our society. The beating and death of our friend, Julie is only one example of this.
On Sunday, we planned Julie's memorial service. We sifted through hymns and prayers; we decided on the most appropriate scripture passages to read. Walking out of that meeting, it was clear this service is not just about honoring Julie.
A lot of our people in our South Dallas community wonder if their lives are valuable. Many are convinced they are of no worth to society, to anyone. We spend our days working to convince them the opposite is true: Every life is immeasurably valuable; worth lies simply in their humanity.
The Human Impact is a "people" organization, unbound by a facility to maintain or resources to distribute. Whether beneath an overpass or on the streets, our work is with our people. And with our people it will stay.