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City of Denton and United Way organize against homelessness

City of Denton and United Way organize against homelessness

Denton's historic court house in the downtown square. Photo by Zixian Chen / Staff Photographer

City of Denton and United Way organize against homelessness
March 03
00:53 2016

Jynn Schubert | Staff Writer


The City of Denton and the United Way of Denton County joined forces to hire a new community impact coordinator last month to organize community groups aimed at helping the homeless population.

Denton County resident Courtney Cross joined the United Way of Denton County in February to increase community participation against homelessness in Denton.

Both the United Way and Denton jointly fund the new position, and though approved in September, it was finalized by the City Council in February.

“I’m really lucky to come in right now, off the momentum of the mayor’s task force,” Cross said. “I’m really just kind of riding the coattails of things that are already going on. There are a lot of people doing a lot of great work and I think I’m very lucky to come into such a supportive atmosphere.”

Some of Cross’ year-long goals include creating an advocacy network throughout the county to exchange data and use resources more efficiently.

Denton Mayor Chris Watts recently pushed for solvency on similar issues through the community development department. The mission is to “provide decent housing, suitable living environment and [expand] economic opportunity, principally for persons of low and moderate income,” according to the city of Denton website.


Graphic by Erica Wieting | Features Editor

There are currently two homeless shelters in Denton run by the Salvation Army and Friends of the Family, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“My role is really to act like a backbone support for organizations that are already working directly with the homeless and at-risk populations in lots of different ways, and to really kind of coordinate them in ways that they don’t already coordinate themselves,” Cross said.

A report, called “Point in Time,” noted in that last year 24.8 percent of Denton’s homeless were living in “places not meant for habitation.” That’s a 10 percent increase from 2014.

“You’ve got a lot of these long standing organizations that have been in the community for years and years, and a lot of great people who are great sources of information — they have this wealth of knowledge — but it all kind of lives in their head.” Cross said, stressing the need for a system of shared information.

Cross is working closely with people like Danielle Shaw, human services coordinator for the city of Denton, to improve communication between these organizations.

“We don’t oversee what they do, we’re just facilitating,” Shaw said. “[We’re] helping them work more collaboratively toward a more community-wide goal, as opposed to an individual organization-by-organization goal.”

Cross is no stranger to community service. Growing up, she was heavily involved with her church group, and continued to assist people while getting her master’s degree in London.

“Long term, I’d like to see a decrease in the number of homeless,” Cross said. “But I’d also like to see us really utilize data in a way we haven’t yet, and I think we need to establish some shared definitions and terms, and figure out how we’re going to collect [information] and report it so that as a community we can go out and get the funding we need.”

Both Cross and Shaw hope to see a difference in the way organizations operate by the end of the year.

“This is one of those unique situations where you have a public/private partnership.” Shaw said. “The city and the United Way are both supporting this position. It’s a unique funding situation that I think is really positive and shows that we’re going to have real community based solutions instead of just one organization trying to solve a problem.”

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