Dallas has a homelessness problem. Indeed it does. But ‘homelessness’ implies that the individual actually desires a home. For example, no one describes our mayor as ‘motorcycleless’ or our county judge as ‘mohawkless.’ Those terms both imply that the mayor wants a motorcycle, and the county judge wants a mohawk.
Many of the individuals on the streets of Dallas do not want homes. I know because I’ve asked them. In fact, like many of you, I’ve offered them jobs or assistance to a shelter and the like. But they don’t want them.
They just want cash.
Many of those on our streets are not interested in a home because with a home inherently comes certain responsibilities. Responsibilities like rent or mortgage payments, taking care of a lawn, paying utility bills, or calling a plumber when needed. These are responsibilities that some people just don’t want. So, they’d rather live on the streets (or anywhere else) where they don’t have such responsibilities.
But please understand, these people need help too. In my experience, they are often addicts of some sort and need our help. They suffer horribly from these addictions. And we all know how addictions work .… an addict cannot be helped until they themselves are willing to do the hard work to rid themselves of the addictive behavior.
This is hard, painful work that is usually proceeded by great suffering until they hit rock bottom.
We need to use language properly, though. And the definition that seems to fit here is “one who has no established residence and wanders idly from place to place without lawful or visible means of support.” This is the definition of a vagrant. In our PC world, we all want to assign the most endearing term to those we want to help. That’s understandable, but it’s inaccurate and unhelpful.
The bottom line is that Dallas does have a Homelessness problem. But we also have a significant Vagrancy problem. Only by calling a problem what it is can we pursue solutions with integrity.
It is cowardly of us to take the easy way out by pretending they’re all ‘homeless’ so we don’t have to do the tougher work of dealing with people that do not even want homes.
Let us have the courage first to call it what it is and then address it head-on.
So, the question I have for our mayor and city council members is, “What are you doing about our homelessness and vagrancy problems?”