Cody at Stewpot

Cody, a junior political science major, received a public service internship award from the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility this summer. She will be working with the Stewpot in downtown Dallas. She plans to attend several City Council meetings and to learn about the public policy of homelessness and how it is changing in Dallas, with the opening of the new and nontraditional Bridge Homeless Assistance Center. She hopes to help the Stewpot understand the attitude of the city toward the homeless population and the reflections of that attitude in city policy.

Read more from Cody at Stewpot

Homelessness in Dallas

My internship at the Stewpot has already exposed me to a whole new aspect of Dallas. The Stewpot is responsible for the meal services at the Bridge Homeless Assistance Center, which opened just this May. Before the Bridge opened, the Stewpot ran meal services out of its location near City Hall and provided several other services to the homeless. It continues to provide services that are not offered at the Bridge.

Notably, I have learned how many people in Dallas are involved with efforts to help the homeless. At my sister’s high school graduation party, a few neighborhood people talked about their involvement with the issue (mostly through their churches). At a political meeting, the same thing happened.

Also, I have become much more aware of and sensitive to stereotypes and harsh judgments of the homeless. The criminalization of the homeless is something that I will study throughout my time with the Stewpot – anyone working with or for the homeless is always conscious of this attitude. The job I have created for myself at the Stewpot involves a lot more time at City Council meetings than with homeless people, so I am in a slightly different situation than someone who volunteers at meal services, for example. Many people can respond to allegations that homeless people are “ungrateful bums” (actual quote) by describing how thankful and kind most homeless people are when interacting with volunteers and other workers.

My main aim is to study the public policy of homelessness – what can government do, in this case city government, to minimize homelessness? Through a contract with the city, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) serves as the main authority on homelessness in the area. There are several MDHA people who will have valuable insight into the policies that Dallas is implementing and changing with respect to homelessness. However, I also need to be aware of state policy. A Dallas Morning News article brought up Texas’ dismal spending on mental health care, which is directly linked to chronic homelessness.

As I attend City Council meetings, speak one-on-one with City Council members, and attend MDHA meetings, among other things, I will have much more to write about, so stay tuned.

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