A video produced by [bc] Media Associate Craig Weflen highlights the Dallas Public Library's Homeless Engagement efforts.
On May 11, the Dallas Public Library asked attendees at a community forum on homeless engagement to reconsider their definition of community. Who are downtown Dallas' community members?
When asked to provide a strategy for building community between the homeless and the housed in Dallas, [bc] Founding Director Brent Brown added a similar sentiment: "Say 'hi' to people, and mean it."
When an everyday office worker walks down the streets of downtown Dallas, do they consider the homeless one of them? For the Dallas Public Library, the answer is clear: homeless people, as much as any other patron, are full community members in downtown Dallas.
Moderated by StreetView podcast host Rashad Dickerson, various community organizations discussed the role of the homeless in downtown Dallas during the forum and how to engage the homeless population through social services, the built environment and art. Panelists included the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, Willie Baronet of WE ARE ALL HOMELESS, and [bc] Founding Director Brent Brown.
"The physicality [of the city] is driven by economic considerations first rather than human considerations," said Brown.
Brown cited the lack of public toilets in downtown Dallas and the interactions that local homeless community members have with the [bc] office in downtown Dallas as examples of how the homeless community negotiates this physicality, while acknowledging the need for more comprehensive social services as well as the role of the Dallas Public Library in engaging the city's homeless.
The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance provided a strategic plan for further engaging homeless populations in Dallas and significantly reducing homelessness. Another highlight of the panel included an activity by artist Willie Baronet in which participants were asked to hold up signs created by homeless people around the country and imagine their lives: Were they old or young? Were they men or women? Why did they choose to own a pet, if it was referenced on the sign? These questions sparked lively dialogue about community perceptions of the homeless in multiple contexts. Baronet also emphasized the importance of respecting a homeless person's humanity by physically acknowledging their presence.
Other ways that [bc] has previously engaged with the Dallas homeless community include the 5750 art installations and the making of a permanent supportive housing community known as the Cottages as Hickory Crossing.
To learn more about the Dallas Public Library's Homeless Engagement efforts, watch the [bc]-produced video above.