This number had increased by almost 1,000 from 2020 when fewer than 4,000 people were arrested. In 2021, a total of 4,313 homeless and vagrants were brought to the county jail.
For last year, men represented nearly 81% of homeless or vagrant suspects brought in by police, while women only made up around 19% of the total. Over 71% of vagrants and homeless people arrested were listed as having suspected mental health issues, while 29% were not.
The average length of stay in the county jail for homeless and vagrants was 45 days.
The most common reasons for which homeless and vagrant people were incarcerated included alleged drug/alcohol use (1,069), criminal trespass (824), and assaultive offenses (556).
An assaultive offense refers to a wide array of incidents, including causing “bodily injury to another” and when someone “intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury.”
Additionally, 12 murders were reportedly attributed to homeless or vagrant suspects.
Other common incidents reported include 348 thefts, 223 burglaries, 133 criminal mischief events, 115 robberies, 72 sexual offenses, and 16 occasions of prostitution.
In some parts of the city, business owners have chosen to hire private security to protect their property and customers from potentially aggressive vagrants, as reported by The Dallas Express.
Mayor Eric Johnson recently identified that fixing the “scourge of homelessness” would be an ongoing priority for his administration.
“Dallas is a city of love and empathy,” Johnson explained. “But we’re also a city that cares about health and safety and respects our residents who simply want to walk to work or into one of our public libraries without being accosted and without fear.”
A survey by Dallas Downtown Inc. found that 76% of downtown residents felt that “homelessness is a significant issue” and compared the situation in Dallas to places like Austin, Houston, Chicago, and New York City.
Although the city’s Office of Homeless Solutions (OHS) has made some efforts to address the issue through a variety of measures, a recent poll conducted by The Dallas Express found that 63% of people city-wide believed that “homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling” continued to cause “serious problems in Dallas.”
Some new initiatives by OHS included a strengthened Homeless Action Response Team (HART) program, which will deploy squads including marshals, code officers, and crisis intervention specialists to homeless or vagrants incidents “presenting an immediate safety concern.”
On the other hand, OHS has also begun a “porta-potty initiative,” which will cost Dallas taxpayers an estimated $105,000 per year for a scant seven toilet installations across the city.
Randy Williams, a South Dallas resident, complained to The Dallas Express that “it seems the City is more willing to encourage homelessness than fight it,” suggesting that the government programs have not only failed to address the issue, but potentially exacerbated it.
Several homeless and vagrant people have suggested that Dallas is considered a destination, with Lewis Brady explaining, “this isn’t a bad city to be homeless in. We are tolerated and pretty much left alone.”
In an apparent attempt to alter that impression, the City of Dallas has asked residents to not give money to panhandlers on the street, suggesting that “Giving spare change without offering support could make matters worse.”
Recently, the City Council passed a new regulation fining people standing on street medians up to $500, as reported by The Dallas Express.
Furthermore, recent developments have suggested that a different approach from the one currently taken by City authorities may yield better results.
In fact, some of the homeless and vagrant people in Dallas even favor a “one-stop” solution for services similar to the Haven for Hope organization in San Antonio as opposed to the “housing first” model, which does not address the root causes of homelessness and vagrancy.