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ALAN POGUE Dallas Homeless Get Bulldozers DALLAS “Look,” said Brenda Moses, who was a probate clerk for Dallas County until she was laid off three years. She points back toward a box piled with old newspapers and discarded plastic bags. “That’s my home. That’s all I got.” If the city of Dallas has its way, Brenda Moses’ home, indeed the entire community of about 200 homeless living in a shantytown beneath the Interstate 45 bridge on Taylor Street, just west of the entrance to Fair Park, the Cotton Bowl and the World Cup soccer games set for this summer, will be bulldozed on March 25. Houston city officials recently ordered tents, shacks and other makeshift shelters removed from Prairie Street in downtown. Houston after nearby businesses objected to the structures, which they said blocked’ the sidewalk. But Houston City Attorney Benjamin Hall said the homeless people cannot be forced to leave as long as they do not violate some other law. The city put up $5,000 in emergency funds to place in hotels or shelters some of the 30 street people who congregated at the site. Hall’s opinion was prompted by state Representative Senfronia Thompson’s lawsuit to prevent the arrest of the homeless people. Thompson, a Houston Democrat, dropped the suit after reading the opinion. Councilwoman Eleanor Tinsley, who first called for the removal of the homeless, went along with Hall’s opinion but she suggested she still believed they should not be allowed to stay at the site, even without the structures, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. After a year of debate over the plight of Dallas’ estimated 5,000 homeless \(beginning with former councilman Charles Tandy’s suggestion that the city provide them all with a one-way bus ticket to Fort to provide running water and toilets to the shantytown, then bulldoze it 20 days later. Homeless people, their advocates and even some City Council members who had worked on alternatives for the homeless over the past year were stunned by the coun cil’s decision after Councilman Glenn Box, citing health and safety concerns, proposed the amendment to an ordinance providing for a homeless pavilion. Some of the homeless and activists attending the February 23 meeting began shouting and calling Mayor Steve Bartlett a “Nazi.” John Fullinwider, a local housing activist and director of Common Ground, a community and homeless advocacy group, was evicted from the meeting after he stormed the podium, shouting, “You can’t just bulldoze over people.” inwider: ‘You Can’t Bulldoze People’ “This is crazy,” said Fullinwider recently when the homeless and their advocates, along with representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, met under 1-45 to discuss strategy. “First, they pass a law a year ago which stated they couldn’t build a homeless shelter downtown. Then, they talk about building a pavilion. Then, out of the clear blue, they decide to pipe in water and toilets only to bulldoze it 20 days later!” The strategy of homeless advocates, says Fullinwider, will include legal action to stop the bulldozing, push for an open-door facility and “creative protests and resistance.” Says Steve Ladd, a local disc jockey and founder of the Underbridge Coalition, which formed three years ago to feed the homeless, “We’ll sing ‘I Shall Not be Moved,’ lock hands and wait.” James Vinson, coordinator of the Underbridge Coalition, believes the decision to tear down the shantytown has more to do with Dallas maintaining its image than health and safety concerns. “Politics is big business,” said Vinson. “Soccer games bring in big business and the City Council feels these people are an eyesore. They will take any means necessary to clean this up. Even bulldoze right over the only possessions these people have. According to Fullinwider, who served on the Mayor’s Task Force for Homeless, the homeless population in Dallas has doubled since 1985 and 1,000 of the 5,000 homeless people are children. In the past, private charities have taken much of the responsibility of caring for the homeless, but they can no longer handle the mass poverty in Dallas. Fullinwider cornered Councilwoman Barbara Mallory while she toured the homeless encampment. “You cannot let them bulldoze the camp without a guarantee for a facility or we’ll never get a facility,” Fullinwider urged. “This is Dallas’ historical moment for the homeless. Either you can provide adequate resources or you can provide law enforcement.” But for most of the homeless, their problems go well beyond the March 25 eviction threat. “All I want is a job,” said Gwendolyn Fields, who has been living under the bridge for three months. “But all there is is these temporary agencies that hire us for the day, pay us $4.25 an hour. That won’t pay rent or even food. Yet Dallas spends a quarter million dollars throwing a parade for millionaires.” Fields shakes her head, her eyes filling with tears. “It just don’t make sense. I want a job. It just don’t make sense.” CAROL COUNTRYMAN Freelance journalist Carol Countryman lives in Kemp. John Full THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13