Lance Olinski said he founded Streetside Showers after encountering someone experiencing homelessness using a bathroom sink in McKinney to get clean.

The nonprofit organization offers access to hygiene care through portable shower trailers, which are set up in McKinney and multiple neighboring cities weekly.

“Getting clean is just a basic human need, it’s not a luxury,” he said.

Since starting Streetside Showers in 2017, Olinski said he has seen growth in the number of people experiencing homelessness in McKinney. Olinski said he estimates that Streetside Showers serves over 200 unique individuals locally and conducts about 1,000 showers each year in McKinney.

Streetside Showers is one of many groups working to serve the area’s homeless population through the McKinney Homeless Coalition, a collaborative effort between the city and over 30 local organizations.

The setup

The total number of homeless individuals has continued to rise in the McKinney area over the past four years. That is despite a roughly 18% decrease in the number of people dealing with homelessness in Collin and Dallas counties during that same time period, according to data from Housing Forward, the lead agency in addressing homelessness in Dallas and Collin counties.

The 2024 point-in-time count, a federally mandated census of the homeless population, identified 239 people experiencing homelessness in McKinney. The count is conducted annually by volunteers on a single night in January, and the data is used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development when making decisions regarding funding for homelessness services.

Paul Ballesteros, founder of Emmanuel Labor, said the count is not representative of the actual amount of people dealing with homelessness in McKinney.
The approach

The McKinney Homeless Coalition evolved from the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness, a group established in 2019 to enable collaboration and information sharing between organizations serving local homeless individuals, Assistant City Manager Kim Flom said.

The group considered ways to create a brick-and-mortar service center for people experiencing homelessness, Flom said. The initiative was halted at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There [was] city support to do something that continues to facilitate and improve our services to our unhoused population; we just weren’t sure how to do it,” Flom said.

The coalition later sparked the creation of the Have a Heart, Give Smart program, an anti-panhandling campaign. The city also offers a number of assistance programs that help prevent someone from losing housing, including rental assistance as well as property rehabilitation programs.

In addition to the programs offered by the city, the McKinney Police Department’s seven-person Community Services Unit works to serve homeless people as well as those experiencing mental health challenges, Police Chief Joe Ellenburg said.

The Community Services Unit is actively working with about 200 homeless individuals, Ellenburg said.
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McKinney ISD can connect families to resources inside and outside of school, including school supplies, health services and nutrition, said Jennifer Akins, McKinney ISD’s chief school improvement and federal programs officer.

The growing costs for living expenses has created challenges for families, Akins said.

“Our goal is to remove barriers created by the homelessness so that our students can continue their education,” she said in an email.
Diving deeper

Community organizations in the McKinney Homeless Coalition are working to address the needs of people who are homeless in McKinney.

While there is no emergency shelter in Collin County, the Samaritan Inn is a “comprehensive homeless program,” Chief Development Officer Kellie Maynard said.

The organization, founded in 1984 and located on McKinney’s east side, offers beds and resources to single men, women and families. The organization also offers the Gateway Apartments, a transitional housing program for qualifying Samaritan Inn graduates, such as Gregory Jolly.

Jolly and his 6-year-old son Elijah joined the Samaritan Inn program after staying with friends and family but not being able to find stable housing. After graduating from the program, the duo moved into the Gateway Apartments.

“For those with children and families that really need help, ... it’s the greatest place on Earth,” he said of the Samaritan Inn.

Other resources available locally include Emmanuel Labor, which aims to help those experiencing homelessness through outreach and the McKinney Emergency Overnight Warming Shelter.

The shelter operated for 27 nights in late 2023 and early 2024, and served an average of 59 guests each night, Ballesteros said. The shelter saw a total of 1,518 overnight stays, which is a nearly 24% increase compared to the prior winter season.

Looking ahead

Olinski said the city would benefit from a day center that offers showers, access to social workers and other services for homeless people—a resource McKinney doesn’t have.

Ballesteros also expressed a need for a local resource center, noting he would like to see overnight beds be available.

“We would benefit from a 20-30 bed type shelter, where there was ... a low barrier of entry but high accountability,” he said.

While no plans have been announced for a shelter in McKinney, Flom said city staff are considering a pilot program that would offer local housing vouchers. Funding for those would be derived from projects involving the McKinney Public Facilities Corporation.

“We’re trying to just be a bridge for some of those folks,” Flom said.

Hannah Johnson contributed to this report.