Big-city mayors address homelessness

February 7, 2009 7:15:57 AM PST
The mayors of Texas' largest cities said Friday they want the state to provide $25 million annually to help them provide housing and other support services for the homeless. "We think it's important," Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said. "We deal with the homeless situation at the local level day in and day out."

In a Friday letter to Gov. Rick Perry asking for the funds, the mayors said that about 44,000 Texans are homeless and the vast majority of them live in urban areas.

"The issue of homelessness is not just a humanitarian issue," Houston Mayor Bill White said, explaining that it's a dollars and cents concern that also impacts emergency rooms and city jails.

Since many of the chronically homeless are dealing with mental health issues, the mayors said they support increased funding for mental health services.

"Housing without (mental health) services won't work," Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said. "Services without housing won't work and doing nothing won't work either."

As a preventive measure, the mayors want to create a partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide services to those leaving state prisons so they don't wind up on the streets.

They also want the state's criminal justice department and Department of Public Safety to work together to issue an official Texas ID Certificate for everyone discharged from a Texas jail or prison before they're released.

The mayors, who represent the cities of Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, El Paso and Arlington, came together in Dallas Friday to address challenges they have in common, including transportation and economic issues.

As members of the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition which also met earlier in Dallas, the mayors said they favor four key legislative priorities related to clean air. They want to encourage the reduction of greenhouse gases, increase the availability of renewable power, reduce energy consumption and improve ambient air quality.

"We're trying to improve the quality of life of the people who live in our cities, the haves and the have nots," Moncrief said.

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