When one thinks of a homeless person, it’s easy to imagine someone who lacks to any basic income and resources needed to maintain secure and permanent housing. However, many who live in our streets are habitual users and abusers of narcotics and other drugs. If these people cannot afford housing, how is it that are able to buy drugs to fuel their addictions? Recent scholarship indicates the somewhat obvious as the primary source of this revenue generation: panhandling and crime.
Several studies have been conducted confirming that there is a positive correlation between these two revenue sources and substance abuse amongst the homeless population. One study of homelessness conducted in Alameda County, California found that panhandling and crime are the most frequently used sources of income for vagrants who suffer from substance use and abuse disorders.
It is very important that Dallas residents and city leaders alike understand this dynamic if there is ever to be a serious initiative to intervene and put an end to rampant homelessness in the city. We must have the courage to name the activities, specifically panhandling and forms of crime, that drive debilitating substance use and abuse among the homeless so that we can tailor a solution that will be most effective in battling it, which will also give these individuals opportunities to seek permanence and transform their lives.
What would that courage look like? It is quite simple: Actual police intervention in illegal activities conducted by homeless people—not the shoulder shrug and hands-in-the-air response Dallas residents have reported getting—and real cultural change to stop panhandling.
When it comes to the criminal activity, the Dallas Police Department must do its part to take crimes committed by homeless people seriously, and it is up to the City Council to provide our officers with the resources they need to do so—whatever they deem appropriate and necessary.
However, it falls upon every Dallas citizen to help defeat vagrancy by ending their financial support of panhandlers.
Dallas residents have a big heart and it is clear that the motivation for helping panhandlers financially is altruistic and good. This is one of the reasons why Dallas is such a great city culturally, but the evidence shows that this money is in essence just enablement of destructive addictions to drugs. True compassion is ending the cycle of drug abuse which prevents them from seeking permanence.
It is also important that we put these findings into context regarding the current state of homelessness here in Dallas. Aggressive panhandling has become more prevalent, and the vagrant population has become emboldened and increasingly violent, which actually makes sense when you understand the scholarship—these people are in need of their next fix and they have to have your money—now.
Addressing this issue has never been more important as Dallas residents are being harassed and, in the worst cases, sent to the hospital due to the violence perpetrated by drug addicted homeless individuals.
Heat deaths are also on the rise during this hot summer, and vagrants who are incentivized to stay on the streets because they will be financially enabled to continue drug use will only lead to more.
Nobody wins in this situation, not Dallas residents nor the vagrant population. Keep Dallas Safe sincerely encourages residents to stop giving financial charity to panhandlers. In the long run, this is the only way to help these people and encourage them to pursue an alternative to homelessness.