Breaking the homelessness cycle across Collin County

Collin County urgently needs more affordable housing to help reduce homelessness, according to the Collin County Homeless Coalition's 2015 census report.


Released April 2, the census is a snapshot of the lives of 367 people experiencing homelessness in the cities of Plano, Frisco, Allen and McKinney. Participants who completed the surveys the night of Jan. 22. were living outside, in homeless shelters and transitional living homes, or in other locations, the report stated.

Stacy Brown, chairwoman of the Collin County Homeless Coalition, said the report revealed the first and second top reasons for homelessness in Collin County are lack of money and unemployment.

The coalition defines homelessness as a person who lacks stable housing and resides either outside, in homeless shelters and transitional living homes, in hotels paid for by faith communitities, in cars, or at other temporary locations.

"Fifty-six percent of adults were employed but could not find affordable housing. That's very telling," Stacy Brown said. "There's a lot to be said about being underemployed. Many were in jobs in which they could be doing more but can't get the jobs that pay more, so they may have two or three jobs just to make ends meet."

[gallery ids="67487,67485,67484"]

In addition to the Samaritan Inn in McKinney, which is almost always full, local shelters, such as Hope's Door, City House, Emily's Place, Family Promise and the Texas Muslim Women's Foundation house homeless residents, Stacy said.

For the first time, education and job training was the second -highest need according to respondents, just below housing and above medical-dental care and food. In addition, 8 percent of respondents cited divorce as a problem, which is more than the 4 percent who reported mental illness, Stacy Brown said.

But the census does not reveal the full extent of the situation since 71,922 nights of shelter were given to people in Collin County.

"Twelve percent [of respondents] had been homeless for more than a year and have a disability—the highest it's ever been. We need to have a coordinated response for people who have chronic homelessness," Stacy Brown said.

Homelessness and children

Shortly after starting his workday in early April, Plano ISD Student Services coordinator James Thomas receives an email from an assistant principal at a local middle school. The principal is worried about a sixth-grader whose family has nowhere to live. The calls and emails do not stop, and time is of the essence when it comes to assisting students living on the brink of homelessness, Thomas said.

"This is not my sole job. I have a litany of other things to do. But this is one that emotionally drains me because I like people so much," Thomas said. "This is my home; [Plano is] where I've always lived. My fear is not being able to do a lot for them."

Thomas Elementary School was named after the PISD coordinator's grandfather, a custodian who was the city's first African-American firefighter. His grandfather was also a humanitarian, a tradition Thomas preserves as PISD's homeless coordinator and liaison for the Collin County Homeless Coalition.

Awareness of the homelessness issue in Collin County was roused about four years ago when the Collin County Homeless Coalition was formed. In that time, several new agencies in Plano and throughout the county have emerged, making the front against homelessness stronger. And the work continues, Thomas said.

"I think when [the census] started out, we had about 40 kids who were classified as homeless [in Plano]. Last year we had 484 students—and that's not even remotely all of them," Thomas said. "There's an average of four to five times more than that in our district. Finding those kids, that's the challenge."

To help identify students in need, Thomas meets with administrators, office staff and counselors on a monthly basis, emphasizing what signs to look for: students who are the first to arrive and the last to leave, returned mail, a student begging for food at lunchtime or having the propensity to wear the same clothing every day.

Thomas knows every food bank and charity in Plano and depends on them to provide the resources students and their families need.

"Those are my people because they come to the rescue of my students and play a major role. Our goal is to service [these students] and make sure they have as much as they need," Thomas said. "I just want to sprinkle dust on [these students] to make the pain go away. How can my students function well when he or she doesn't know where they're sleeping tonight or what he or she is eating tonight?"

Preventing homelessness

To help Plano families transition out of homelessness, Plano Community Services Manager Shanette Brown said the municipality provides rent, utilities and mortgage assistance through its homelessness prevention program.

"We have a five-year consolidated plan that [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] makes us report on over these five years how many people we are going to assist. We have assisted 97 people in Plano with shelter services and support services (from 2010 to 2014)," Shanette Brown said.

Over the next five years, Shanette Brown said the city is expected to serve 250 homeless people with these services as well as an additional 200 people in shelter services with help from local shelters and organizations.

Plano Deputy City Manager LaShon Ross also emphasized the city's proactive stance in the prevention of homelessness and also for addressing the homelessness issues that the city currently faces.

"We are not interested in waiting until the situation becomes chronic and much more difficult to manage," she said.

For information about the Collin County Homeless Coalition and to view the coalition's 2015 census, visit www.facebook.com/collinhomeless.
SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

A camp hosted by Outcry Theatre is one of dozens of spring and summer camps offered in Plano this year. (Courtesy Outcry Theatre)
31 activities for kids: A list of spring and summer camps in Plano

A noncomprehensive list of spring and summer camps for children in Plano.

Eliseo Figueroa opened Lima Taverna in 2017 across from the former Macy’s location at Collin Creek Mall in Plano. (Daniel Houston/Community Impact Newspaper)
Owner of Plano's Lima Taverna restaurant shares love for Peruvian cuisine, culture

The restaurant serves dishes ranging from marinated fish served with Peruvian sides to a stir-fry made with beef tenderloin.

Level III ballet students take part in stretches during class. Before reaching Level IV, students must master technical skills and prove their physical and mental focus, according to the academy's syllabus. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
'The art of ballet': Couple runs Plano studio with focus on performance

Hathaway Academy of Ballet is all about the fundamentals and principles of ballet technique, according to Kirt Hathaway, who runs the studio with his wife, Linda.

Market data: Plano home prices rise in December in all but one ZIP code

See the latest Plano housing market statistics in this infographic.

A new Plano police substation will be completed this spring at the southwest corner of McDermott Road and Robinson Road. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plano police, fire gear up to prepare for growth in changing northwest Plano

Plano police and fire departments have improved their response times in recent years even as they handle a rising number of calls from a growing city population.

The Shops at Willow Bend is continuing with a $125 million expansion project that includes the mall's now-open restaurant district. (Daniel Houston/Community Impact Newspaper)
Developer stays course in Willow Bend mall expansion following prominent departures, late payment

The owner behind a multimillion-dollar project to expand Plano’s only remaining indoor shopping mall is looking to extend and restructure its financing as it prepares for a new stage of office and residential construction.

The district has lost roughly 1,900 students in the last four years, according to a presentation at a  Feb. 18 work session, and the trend is expected to continue. (Gavin Pugh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plano ISD enrollment expected to continue dropping in next decade

Enrollment at Plano ISD is expected to continue to decline in the next decade, according to a report from a Feb. 18 work session.

A proposed construction project at Williams High School may cost roughly $14 million and be financed via remaining funds from Plano ISD’s 2016 bond. Members of the Plano ISD board of trustees were given a tour of Williams High School at a work session Sept. 17. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plano ISD focuses on possible $14 million project for Williams High School

A proposed construction project at Williams High School may cost roughly $14 million and be financed via remaining funds from Plano ISD’s 2016 bond.

Texas Central officials announced interior plans Feb. 17 for the company's proposed high-speed train connecting Houston and Dallas. The Shinkansen trains in Japan will be customized for Texas with no middle seats and additional legroom, company officials announced. (Courtesy Texas Central)
JUST IN: Texas Central gives first glimpse of high-speed train car interior

Texas Central officials announced interior plans Feb. 17 for the company's proposed high-speed train connecting Houston and Dallas.

A mural showcasing the events of 9/11 has been hand-painted in the bay area of Fire Station 8. (Courtesy Plano Fire-Rescue)
9/11 mural completed at Plano firestation

A mural showcasing the events of 9/11 began being hand-painted in the bay area of Fire Station 8 in mid-January.

Forever 21 closed Dec. 30 at The Shops at Willow Bend. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Plano Forever 21 closes as part of company closures

Forever 21 closed Dec. 30 at The Shops at Willow Bend, 6121 W. Park Blvd., Plano.

Back to top