The Unwalkable Walkable City: Our Homeless Problem in Dallas Not Yet in Critical Condition?

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IMG_8912I was in San Francisco last week for Inman Real Estate Connect. Loved it, as ever. Saturday, I got a petition launched by Rob Hahn (a Texan, Houston, and a pretty smart guy) to change the location of the conference OUT of San Francisco’s Tenderloin to somewhere else:

ICSF is a great event held in a horrifyingly bad location. Whether we’re getting more sensitive, or the vagrants and panhandlers around the Hilton are getting worse, things have never been as bad as they were this year. We are now actually afraid and worried about our physical safety. Networking with our industry peers should not have to include fending off a half-dozen super aggressive panhandlers, or getting screamed at by mentally unstable homeless people, or dealing with sexual harassment from vagrants. It’s time. Move the ICSF conference out of the Tenderloin.The homeless problem in San Francisco is bad and getting worse

Naturally, I said come to Texas. Just not in August.

I’m debating whether to sign the petition. I can definitely relate. I, too, heard a lot of complaints. Clay Stapp and James Bohan-Pitt saw gals shooting up heroin on the street, which is an everyday occurrence. Another exhibitor told me he had all his brand new Apple computers stolen out of his car the very first night of the conference, resulting in a scramble to get new computers overnight in order to stock his booth the subsequent days. A lot of agents complained about stepping over the homeless and their garbage/pee. I was horrified to see it’s no longer men and pets panhandling but women cradling infants with begging cups. And the day I arrived in San Francisco — after a super early morning flight, lost luggage, no food and little sleep — I learned real estate is not the only inflated commodity.

I grabbed a quick bite to eat across from the Hilton at the Old Siam Restaurant. Sat down, got out my phone and started focusing on emails. Suddenly, man walked in and seated himself at my table. Total stranger.

Excuse me, I said, wondering for a split second if I knew him. He wasn’t badly dressed — it’s hard to tell the millionaires from the homeless in San Francisco.

“You are so beautiful,” he said. Now I knew this was a total BS deal of some sort.

Maybe, I thought, maybe people in San Francisco now share tables because of space?

“That’s sweet,” I said, ” but really I am busy and will just be here a moment, if you want this table…”

“Just give me $10,” he said, ” and I’ll leave.”

$10? The baseline for begging In San Fran is now a tenspot?

For a second, I thought it might be a fun story to buy him lunch, snag an interview, but probably not smart when traveling alone. I grabbed the cashier and told her the guy was a beggar, and someone asked him to leave.

“I thought he was with you,” said the owner.


The vagrants in San Francisco DO seem to be getting worse and more aggressive. The city now has nine public walls covered with a repellant paint that makes pee spray back on the person’s shoes and pants, a last desperate attempt to get people to quit urinating in alleyways and on walls.

Signs reading “Hold it! This wall is not a public restroom. Please respect San Francisco and seek relief in an appropriate place,” hang above some walls.

The signs don’t explicitly state that the wall will fire back, the newspaper reports.

Public urination has long been a problem in San Francisco. Legislation banning it in 2002 has seen little success, despite a fine of up to $500.

That explains a lot of the smells. Contrary to what some Bay area residents say, there are laws in the city banning sitting or lying on sidewalks, as well as yelling and threatening passer-bys. They just have no teeth:

Despite several laws on the books that Newsom promoted (and that have been blasted by homeless advocates as being mean-spirited), there’s not much police enforcement of them. Newsom’s voter-approved 2010 ban on sitting or lying on sidewalks isn’t enforced much outside the Haight, for example.

More significantly, open-air drug dealing and drug use persist, public urination and defecation are widespread, and downright creepy behavior such as screaming at and threatening passersby is tolerated. The Ten Year Plan avoided much discussion of law enforcement.

From what I have researched, there could be as many as 6500 homeless in San Fran. A program that actually paid them was ended in 2007. Ten plus years ago, the city spent $1.5 billion and moved 19,500 homeless off the streets. But every time one leaves, another one takes his place. This year the Mayor, who critics say is less focused on housing the vagrants than he is bringing tech jobs to San Fran, is trying homeless encampments to clear out the estimated 400 homeless people who have been camping in the Mission District and surrounding neighborhoods and triggering complaints for the past year.

The number of chronically homeless in Dallas and Collin counties rose 26 percent in the latest annual count.

The total homeless population in Dallas County increased from 2,972 in 2013 to 3,314 in 2014, according to a Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance’s annual report. But the number of chronically homeless dropped by 37% in 2014 to 413.

It will be interesting to see if conferences like Inman and conventions either move away from the problem, shunning hotels that border on The Tenderloin, or find other cities altogether.

There may be a lesson for Dallas in all of this, too.


Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature, and, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

Reader Interactions


  1. Bob Stoller says

    Thank you, Candy, for your thoughtful comments. Dallas often aspires to be like other, more cosmopolitan cities, but you have seen and experienced the dark side of this aspiration. My last trip to San Francisco involved a hotel stay near yours–right on the line between the Tenderloin and the Union Square District, and the situation has evidently deteriorated since then.

    We should learn from these other cities what can happen when problems such as these are not addressed effectively.. Look at what these other cities have tried, and which solutions have been helpful and which have not. Our homeless situation is certainly nothing like SF (or New York, or LA), but it also has not been alleviated by the Bridge, nor by the other programs that exist here. The Bridge, I think, has established a foundation for resolving the situation, but more is needed. The City, the County, and the private sector (churches, foundations, and businesses, for example) all need to pitch in.

    • mmCandy Evans says

      Agreed. Our climate makes it next to impossible for homeless to survive during this summer heat. If you read the SFGate piece it says that one SF Homeless Czar wanted to close all the shelters…

      • mmCandy Evans says

        “The Ten Year Plan shifted that strategy to get people inside as quickly as possible and provide on-site case managers to help them work through all those other issues without having to worry about where they’d sleep that night. Tied to that was eliminating emergency shelter beds, replacing them with 24-hour crisis clinics and sobering centers.

        “I hate shelters,” Alioto said. “If you want to abolish homelessness, you’ve got to abolish the programs that support it.”

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