A local vagrant was recently recorded saying that he would rather remain homeless in Dallas than find housing.
The video was captured by Jake Colglazier, executive director of Keep Dallas Safe. Colglazier catalogs and live streams illegal homeless encampments throughout Dallas every week, and this video was taken from one of those live streams.
When exploring a homeless encampment in Deep Ellum underneath I-45 / US-75 on December 28, Colglazier interviewed a local vagrant who said he would rather remain homeless.
“I’ve been homeless here a long time,” he said. Colglazier asked the vagrant if he wanted the City to assist him in finding housing, to which he replied, “No, I’m alright.”
Recapping the encounter, Colglazier emphasized that he had not asked the man if he would rather get a job and pay rent.
“I said, ‘Would you rather live here or would you rather let the government give you somewhere to live?'” Colglazier described. “And he says ‘No, I’m good. I’m okay here.'”
Colglazier told The Dallas Express that he has encountered many vagrants who would seemingly rather stay homeless than accept help from city services and nonprofits, adding that he believes the city government should “make it more difficult for those people to remain on the streets.”
“It sounds a little bit too simple based on what the city council will say … but all you have to do is make it more difficult for those people to stay on the streets, and the city council pretends like that’s very difficult,” he said, explaining that council members will cite a lack of resources and a need to provide stable housing before anything can be done.
“There are already laws on the books that prohibit these things, so it’s a simple matter of enforcing the law,” Colglazier continued. “This guy has set up a permanent camp in a public space in the City of Dallas. This is illegal. The police can be sent to go talk to him.”
“If he doesn’t vacate and start utilizing one of the many programs the City has for him, whether it a work program or a shelter … then [the police] can fine him and come back and arrest him if he doesn’t leave,” he told The Dallas Express.
While some may consider it harsh to arrest homeless people for living on the street, Colglazier explained that “if you put somebody like that in jail, he’s gonna have a chance to sober up, and maybe you can get him to a counselor, and figure out what he needs to do to get back on his feet.”
The City of Dallas similarly discourages residents from giving money directly to panhandlers as it enables them to remain on the streets, and suggests those who want to help direct their support to city services.
Colglazier said that the City’s current approach to homelessness and vagrancy is “not helping anybody.” He explained, from his perspective, the City enables vagrants with drug addictions while taking away resources from “the people who are just having a tough time in life and need a little help.”
“Given the number of vagrants out there who don’t want any of this help, these people are taking resources from people who might actually need it,” he said. “By enabling these people, the City is basically hurting the wilfully homeless vagrants as well as the people who could actually use the resources.”
However, the City’s approach to homelessness may not be so cut-and-dry.
Christine Crossley, director of the City’s Office of Homeless Solutions, shared her office’s approach to combatting homelessness with The Dallas Express, emphasizing her belief in the importance of providing housing to those who are living on the street.
“Housing is health,” Crossley asserted. “I don’t think it’s any secret that you have a drastically shorter lifespan when you are outside, and asking someone to deal with that trauma and try to get on their feet while they are still outside and being re-traumatized every day is a very high bar.”
Data published last year by the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Discovery Institute indicates that “housing first” solutions are not likely to solve homelessness, however. These approaches ignore untreated mental illnesses and drug abuse and are thus “doomed to failure” because they “begin with an inadequate diagnosis of the causes.”
Crossley noted that housing should not be provided in isolation but should be tied with supportive services.
“If you are someone who needs a lot more support, then we’re talking about permanent supportive housing, and that has various degrees of case management on site,” she said, adding that mental health support is often provided onsite and transportation is guaranteed for those who need offsite services.
Crossley told The Dallas Express there are “absolutely” job training and employment opportunities available as well.
“That is part of the services offered,” she said, “so if you are someone who wants to get on a path to employment, that’s always encouraged.”