Stomp out litter in your neighborhood with the Litter Stomp

One thing everyone can agree on is that litter is ugly. Not to mention the public health issues it causes.

Residents can make a difference by participating in the annual Litter Stomp on Saturday, Oct. 17, hosted by Keep Fort Worth Beautiful. It’s an easy event during which to social distance.

Last year, more than 1,000 residents organized cleanup activities in their neighborhoods and had a lot of fun doing it. It’s a great opportunity to engage neighbors – especially youth – to celebrate neighborhood pride and honor community service. You choose the area to clean up – it can be your neighborhood, the park down the street, a greenbelt or a school campus.

Each registered group will be provided trash bags, gloves and event T-shirts (first come, first served before they are gone). Once you’ve collected all the garbage, there are a number of ways it can be disposed of. Visit the Litter Stomp web page for details.

There will be no in-person registration this year. All supply distribution will be arranged in a way that limits person-to-person contact.

Register and learn more online, by phone at 817-392-1234 or by email.

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2020 National Preparedness Month theme: ‘Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.’

On Sept. 22, Mayor Betsy Price and the City Council presented Assistant Fire Chief Homer Robertson with a National Preparedness Month proclamation.

During the ceremony, Price proclaimed Sept. 1-30 as National Preparedness Month. The proclamation was part of the Office of Emergency Management’s public education campaign designed to prepare Fort Worth residents for all types of hazards.

Fort Worth Fire Chief James Davis and Office of Emergency Management staff members were recognized for outstanding work and long hours dedicated to the response to the current pandemic and many other incidents.

Maribel Martinez, emergency management coordinator, expressed her appreciation to the City Council, city departments and partner agencies for all of the support given to the Office of Emergency Management during these challenging times.

Part of the campaign efforts included distributing emergency preparedness literature and goody bags through Fort Worth libraries, informational messages on social media, KnoWhat2Do videos through the city cable channel, informative articles in City News and a self-serve educational table at City Hall.

National Preparedness Month is recognized each September to promote family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. As the nation continues to respond to COVID-19, there is no better time to be involved. The 2020 theme is “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.”

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United Way’s Area Agency on Aging funds $7.3 million to support older adults

United Way of Tarrant County’s Area Agency on Aging funded an estimated $7.3 million to support community organizations providing vital services to an estimated 36,000 older adults in Tarrant County, with the majority of funding dedicated to ensuring older adults receive nutritional meals.

Organizations receiving funding include Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County, Alzheimer’s Association North Central Chapter, Ardent Spirit, Dementia Friendly Fort Worth, Dental Health Arlington, Guardianship Services, Sixty and Better, the Women’s Center of Tarrant County and others. Services include caregiver information, evidence-based intervention, health maintenance, legal assistance, respite care, nutrition services and other in-home services to assist and support older adults.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased need for services for older adults,” said Don Smith, director of the Area Agency on Aging and vice president of community investment for United Way of Tarrant County. “Many caregivers are no longer able to help for fear of spreading the virus, and the closing of adult activity centers has limited services available to them, especially access to nutritious meals.”

Smith said a majority of the funding is earmarked for nutritional services with an estimated 1.6 million meals expected to be delivered to 22,040 older adults in Tarrant County. He said food insecurity, especially among those living alone and with dementia, is one of the most urgent issues among the older population.

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Mega Mobile Markets make a mega impact

Nearly five months after they began, the Tarrant Area Food Bank’s drive-thru food distributions, called Mega Mobile Markets, continue to grow.

As the pandemic lingers in Texas, so does an unprecedented rise in hunger. As people are laid off and unemployment checks hang in the balance, the uncertainty has prompted many Texans to seek food assistance for the first time. Feeding Texas reported that the percentage of food-insecure families has doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) has provided food and essentials to hundreds of partner agencies and added 30 special feeding events per week to meet the need. Compared to pre-COVID-19 operations, the food bank is experiencing a 60% increase in providing food. Helping to alleviate the increase in food insecurity are the new Mega Mobile Markets, held every Friday to distribute fresh produce, protein and other nutritious food to the community.

How the markets work

Mobile markets are temporary food distribution setups all across Tarrant Area Food Bank’s 13-county service region. Empty parking lots and gymnasiums are transformed into temporary food distribution lines. Driving by on an average day, one would never know that the local church parking lot could feed hundreds of families with a truck full of food delivered once a month.

Though TAFB has held mobile markets since 2010, one thing is new as a result of COVID-19: drive thru distributions. By having families stay in their cars and volunteers and staff deposit food in their trunks, the effectiveness, speed and safety of mobile markets is maximized.

From March through July, the 136th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard assisted TAFB by packing emergency boxes and staffing these mobile distributions that are highly attended.

Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) now recruits more than 75 employees, volunteers and contract workers each Friday to provide cars in line with nearly 100 pounds of fresh food. To volunteer, sign up online.

The first Mega Mobile Market was held Aug. 14 in White Settlement with the hope of serving 500 families. Over the course of four hours, more than 750 families drove away with their cars stuffed full of fresh food.

The first TAFB Mega Mobile Market served 200 more families than anticipated. The next week, it increased again by another 200 families.

One week later, a Mega Mobile Market at Herman Clark Stadium served just over 900 families, a 20% increase in turnout. And the next week, another 22% increase that fed 1,127 families. Tarrant Area Food Bank anticipates this number will only climb as word gets out and more volunteers enlist to help the line of cars move faster.

Tarrant Area Food Bank intends to host Mega Mobile Markets until November, hoping to push thousands of pounds of food out into the community every week.

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Parade of Lights takes on a new look this year

In its 38th year, the 2020 GM Financial Parade of Lights will have a new look this year due to COVID-19 concerns.

The parade will not take place on the streets of downtown Fort Worth. The parade will be shown live at 6 p.m. Nov. 22 on KTXA-21 and Facebook from the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena. This year’s theme is Hope and Joy for the Holidays.

In addition, residents and guests are invited to participate in the Downtown Showcase of Floats from 6-8 p.m. Nov. 23 and 24 along Main Street.

First staged in 1983 to help Fort Worth celebrate family and togetherness in a spirited way, the parade has grown to become one of the top illuminated parades in the country. The parade is produced by Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives Inc., whose mission is to make downtown Fort Worth a vibrant place to live, work and play.

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City Council preview: Tuesday, Sept. 22

The following information is a preview of items being discussed at City Council meetings on Sept. 22.

City Council Work Session, 8:30 a.m., Room 290 of City Hall, 200 Texas St.

  • Informal reports will discuss 2019 results for economic development incentive agreements; a bid to lease 188 golf carts for municipal golf courses; an update on the permitting process and an upcoming public meeting related to Mary’s Creek Water Reclamation Facility; and a Municipal Court update on panhandling cases.
  • Briefings will cover 2020 Reading Instruction Program results and a preview of planned improvements to the city website.
  • Councilmembers will also hear briefings on COVID-19 recovery and CARES Act funding.

City Council meeting, 10 a.m., City Council Chamber on the second floor of City Hall.

  • Council will vote on the recommended fiscal year 2021 city budget and tax rate.
  • Councilmembers will vote on a resolution appointing eight members to the board of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
  • Members will vote on a contract with the Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County Inc. for $1,786,370 for management of the Fort Worth Public Art Program and adopt the Public Art Annual Work Plan for fiscal year 2021.
  • The Council will vote on an economic development program agreement with Wesco Aircraft Hardware Corp. for the relocation of its corporate headquarters to Fort Worth.
  • Proclamations will be presented for Indigenous Peoples’ Week, Near Southside Arts and National Preparedness Month.
  • One zoning case is on the agenda.

Visitors to the City Council meetings must undergo a temperature check and health screening upon entering City Hall, and masks or face coverings are required.

To promote social distancing, seating during the Council meeting will be extremely limited. Residents planning to make an in-person presentation should arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of the meeting to allow time for screening and to ensure seating is available.

Though in-person comments will be allowed at the 10 a.m. Council meeting, residents may also comment by telephone on an agenda item or during the public presentation portion of the agenda. To sign up to speak, use the link on the agenda, call 817-392-6150 or email the City Secretary. Speakers before Council should keep in mind that state law prohibits councilmembers from engaging in dialogue with speakers during public comment periods.

Watch the meeting live on Fort Worth TV, either online, on TV or on Facebook. You can also watch the meeting via the Fort Worth TV video library.

Members of the City Council may be participating remotely in compliance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, Council Rules of Procedure, or under the provisions provided by the governor of Texas in conjunction with the Declaration of Disaster enacted March 13, 2020.

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2020 Census special operations to count homeless begins next week

The U.S. Census Bureau will begin the special operations to count people experiencing in communities across the country on Sept. 22.

Specially-trained census takers will count people Sept. 22-24 at shelters, soup kitchens and mobile food van stops in an operation called Service-Based Enumeration. Census takers will count people who live outdoors, in transit stations and at other locations where people are known to sleep in an operation called Targeted Non-Sheltered Outdoor Locations.

Counting people experiencing homelessness is part of the Group Quarters operation, a special process to count people in unique living situations. The Group Quarters operation also counts people living in nursing homes, prisons, missions and dormitories.

A complete and accurate 2020 Census can ultimately help organizations provide better services, food distribution capability and improved shelter options to those in need.

In preparation for counting people experiencing homelessness, the Census Bureau is coordinating with local service providers and has consulted with advocacy groups and other stakeholders throughout the country to adjust this work in response to COVID-19. The Census Bureau is also working with service provider administrators to identify locations where people experiencing homelessness are living to ensure a complete count of this population.

To count people outdoors in places like tent encampments, teams of census takers wearing reflective vests and carrying smartphones, flashlights and paper questionnaires will visit those locations; often at night. Every effort will be made to collect all the information requested on the census form. If that isn’t possible, census takers will conduct a population count. Census takers will follow the latest local public health guidance regarding the use of personal protective equipment and social distancing.

Census statistics are crucial to programs and service providers that support people experiencing homelessness and inform how state, local and federal lawmakers will allocate billions of dollars in federal funds for local services such as shelters and soup kitchens, and programs like the Emergency Shelter Grants Program and the Special Milk Program for children. Local nonprofit organizations also rely on census statistics to improve where and how they provide critical services.

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Development Services to launch resident-focused tools to improve convenience

The Fort Worth Development Services Department will launch Open Counter, a software program providing residents the tools they need to navigate the building permitting process and to stay in compliance with city ordinances.

There will be three modules: zoning, residential and commercial. Each module will walk the resident or developer through a series of interactive questions that lead to a printed permit guide for commercial or residential projects.

Additionally, the end user will receive an estimated permit fee calculation, a list of all needed permits, a list of contacts and departments with which to communicate and more.

The launch of the Open Counter software is scheduled for February 2021.

To learn more, call Development Services at 817-392-2222.

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Construction is coming to Gateway Park

The Fort Worth Water Department is replacing a 0.27-mile-long segment of sanitary sewer, inside Gateway Park, starting Sept. 28. This capital improvement project affects Disposal Road, starting just south of Fort Woof Dog Park and moving north to just west of the softball fields.

Traffic control will be in place, if needed, to guide visitors around the construction.

The projected end date is December 2021.

View a map.

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Panhandling remains a problem, although cases are down during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had some interesting effects on panhandling in Fort Worth. Fewer reports are being made, although the Police Department continues to use a multi-pronged approach to deal with the problem.

Panhandling calls received during the first seven months of 2020 were down 53% from the same period in 2019. Across the city, panhandling calls, citations and reports have decreased considerably, with the exception of the North Division. During the pandemic, many residents have been staying home, which could account for the lower number of calls received.

Another variable associated with the pandemic was that officials limited the number of people taken to the Fort Worth City Jail to help minimize COVID-19 exposure.

In 2017, Fort Worth established the Aggressive Panhandling Ordinance, which clarified a previous ordinance with clear definitions and gave police officers a better tool to address problems associated with aggressive panhandling. Even with those changes, there are still concerns surrounding aggressive panhandling.

The Fort Worth Police Department takes a multi-step approach when dealing with panhandling complaints. Once a complaint is received or a violation is observed, officers attempt to gain compliance by educating the violator about available resources and notifying them of the current city ordinance prohibiting aggressive panhandling.

If those education efforts fail, a citation is issued. If the citation does not correct the behavior, a custodial arrest can be made. A custodial arrest is only used when all other efforts to gain compliance have failed.

How to report panhandling

Instead of giving money to panhandlers, officials encourage residents to donate to the many local charities that assist with helping homeless people in need. Donating this way ensures that the money being donated goes toward helpful services and not harmful addictions.

To report panhandling, call the FWPD nonemergency number at 817-392-4222. Or call 911 if the panhandler is acting in an aggressive or threatening manner.

Residents who are willing to help can text FWCHANGE to 41444 and their donations will benefit the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition. The donated funds will help provide housing-related services such as application fees and security deposits; bus tickets; motel vouchers for families; and mattresses.

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