Hunger and Homelessness in North Texas | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

For Many North Texans, Food and Housing Insecurity Are a Constant Challenge

Discover how we’re leading a movement to prevent hunger and homelessness.

Hunger and homelessness are challenges that far too many of our neighbors experience, both during the cold-weather months and throughout the year.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we recognize that housing stability is foundational for supporting education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. And reliable access to nutritious meals enables kids to learn more effectively, adults to succeed at work and people of all ages to stay healthy. In short, the issues of hunger and homelessness directly affect all areas of our work.

In recognition of national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, November 13-21, we’re taking a closer look at these challenges in North Texas, how together with our supporters we work to prevent hunger and homelessness, and what you can do this month to ensure everyone in our region can thrive.

Hunger in North Texas

Our state has a food insecurity problem, and the pandemic has only made the situation worse. In the spring, North Texas Food Bank estimated that nearly 900,000 North Texans faced immediate and sustained food insecurity. That number has likely improved as hiring has started to rebound, but far too many of local families are still struggling to make ends meet.

Food insecurity can be especially harmful to children, since they need consistent, quality nutrition to grow and learn. Thankfully, during the school year, districts across the state provide meals to many of their students. In Dallas ISD, 89% of students qualify for free or reduced-cost meals during the school year. However, when school is out—such as over Thanksgiving and winter break or during the summer —many of these students lack access to regular meals.

The State of Homelessness

Homelessness is common in many metro areas, including North Texas. It’s a complex challenge that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

In fact, the number of local families being evicted from their homes may be on the verge of a significant increase. That’s because just last week, the state agency that runs the Texas Rent Relief Program stopped taking applications for residents needing help with rent and utility bills, putting more people at risk of losing their homes.

According to the annual Point in Time Homeless Count, led by our partners at Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, in February 2021:

  • 4,570 people were experiencing homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties.
  • Of those individuals who were unsheltered, about 37% had been homeless for more than three years, while about 40% had been homeless for one to three years.
  • About nine out of 10 experiencing homelessness were over the age of 24, while one out of 12 were under the age of 18.
  • 370 of the individuals experiencing homelessness were veterans.
  • 550 people in shelters had children with them, and more than 52% of those families were Black.
  • It takes people experiencing homelessness about 100 days to get into housing, a number that has steadily declined since 2015, when our community started prioritizing data-driven, housing-first solutions.

For people experiencing homelessness, the winter months can be especially difficult, which makes it vital for us to remember our unhoused neighbors throughout the cold weather months.

Impacting These Areas

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we lead and invest in a variety of programs that impact hunger and homelessness, including:

Hunger

Southern Dallas Thrives: This partnership with the PepsiCo Foundation and Frito-Lay North America focuses on education, income and health simultaneously to improve people’s lives in the southern Dallas community. One component of the program involves providing families with nutritious meals in the city’s largest food desert. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic crisis, Southern Dallas Thrives served more than 60,000 meals in collaboration with PepsiCo’s Food for Good, while also providing food resources to more than 2,500 community residents.

Goodr: Southern Dallas Thrives was also instrumental in the Dallas launch of Atlanta-based Goodr. In collaboration with State Fair of Texas and Communities Foundation of Texas, Southern Dallas Thrives spearheaded this effort to increase food access to southern Dallas families. A food distribution pilot successfully launched in April 2021, serving 250 families with 10,000 meals during a pop-up grocery store at Fair Park, as well as 320 families with 12,800 meals via home deliveries. Following the success of the project, the program will grow throughout 2022, providing an estimated 3,200 southern Dallas families with food resources.

North Texas Summer and Supper Council: Created by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the North Texas Hunger Initiative,  North Texas Summer & Supper Council is a program designed to improve summer meal programming for children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals during the school year. The council helps local meal providers raise awareness, increase meal sites and more effectively address child hunger in our community. In 2020, the program helped local meal providers serve more than 10 million meals in Dallas and Collin Counties, impacting up to 70,000 children.

Community Impact grants: We also support and invest in community partners that fight food insecurity in North Texas. In our last fiscal year (July 2020 to June 2021), these partners provided more than 1.7 million prepared meals, served 424,000 clients who received food pantry services and, incredibly, distributed more than 28 million pounds of food.

Homelessness

Our work in housing stability spans a continuum of services, including:

  • Supporting the creation of affordable housing
  • Eviction prevention
  • Assisting people experiencing homelessness so they can get housed as quickly as possible

Before the pandemic, United Way and our Community Impact partners were assisting thousands of North Texans every year with emergency shelter, transitional housing and other services. This work includes providing grants to fund a program called FUSE, or Frequent Users Systems Engagement, through which caseworkers team up with the county hospital and jail to efficiently move people experiencing homelessness into housing.

When COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis hit, tens of thousands of our neighbors were suddenly at risk of eviction. In response, we quickly launched the Dallas Rental Assistance Collaborative (DRAC), which provides rental and utility assistance to ensure more people can stay in their homes. Since its formation, DRAC has provided more than 4,200 households with more than $14.4 million in rental and utility assistance.

In addition to these and other programs, our social innovation initiatives give us ongoing opportunities to identify, elevate and activate social entrepreneurs who are working to end hunger and homelessness. For example, our 2021-2022 Social Innovation Accelerator fellows include:

  • Aspiratia Village, a venture by Ark of Hope Inc., which seeks to end homelessness by providing chronically homeless individuals immediate access to safe, permanent housing and the opportunity to engage in collaborative community services.
  • FEED Oak Cliff, a nonprofit whose Transformative Community Market seeks to lift the physical, financial and entrepreneurial profile of food desert residents.

How You Can Be Part of the Change

The holidays can be an ideal time to reflect on what truly matters—and to look for opportunities to lift up our fellow North Texans.

This month, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has two volunteer events that directly impact hunger and homelessness in our community. Click below to sign up and join us in creating opportunity for all North Texans to thrive:

  • Emergency rental assistance events: Volunteers will provide support at rental assistance pop-up events, greeting clients, directing traffic, handing out materials, scanning documents, inputting data, etc.
  • Fighting food insecurity: Volunteers will assist with food pantry stocking or work the meal service at a local food kitchen.
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ABOUT UNITED WAY OF METROPOLITAN DALLAS

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United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is a social change organization that unites the community to create opportunity and access for all North Texans to thrive, challenging the systemic barriers associated with race. Together with our committed change-seekers, we are mobilizing a movement for lasting change, to ensure all our neighbors have access to education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. We invite you to Live United and be part of the change right here at home.

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This article was published on: Nov 17, 2021