Dallas Police Are Now Rounding Up Homeless People for "Sleeping in Public" Downtown

Categories: Crime

TanyaRaganHomeless.jpg
Courtesy of Tanya Ragan
A group of homeless people bedding down for the night on a street near The Bridge.
Dallas has never been able to clear the homeless from downtown streets, though not for lack of trying. Bans on panhandling, feeding homeless people, library benches and sleeping in public have provided city officials with helpful tools, but they have proved inadequate.

Or perhaps it's just that because they weren't being deployed with sufficient bluntness.

In November, Dallas police began daily, early-morning sweeps of the Central Business District, arresting people caught sleeping on sidewalks, benches, stoops. They are loaded into a paddy wagon and taken to Lew Sterrett. (Note: Following the story, Dallas Police Chief David Brown tweeted that DPD will review the practice.)

See also: Dwaine Caraway Says Dallas is the "Homeless Capital of the World" and Should Bus Them Out of Town

"A lot of people around downtown, especially in the Farmers Market area, were complaining that, in the morning, they'd find people sleeping on their steps and [in front of] different businesses," says Larry Litton, a sergeant in DPD's Central Business District unit.

Before, when officers would find people sleeping, they might write them a ticket, which would inevitably go unpaid. If that person kept showing up at the same spot, there might be an arrest. The new approach is more effective, Litton says, since it "gives them more incentive to comply with the law."

Litton says the numbers bear this out. Since the paddy wagon got rolling in November, Litton has seen a steady decline in the number of arrests.

"We're not taking any more enforcement action," he says. "It's just that we're not writing tickets."

Tanya Ragan, president of the Farmers Market Stakeholders Association, contends that DPD's early-morning sweeps are an attempt to cope with fallout from a policy change at The Bridge homeless shelter.

"The Bridge used to let police sign in every homeless person that showed up," she writes in an email. "Now police are only allowed 7 per night unless the temp drops below 37."

That has had the predictable effect of increasing the number of people camping out in front of nearby homes and businesses.

"At [FMSA]'s last crime watch meeting The Bridge security director flat out told the group that they wouldn't allow homeless on their property at night," Ragan writes. "They either had to come inside by 7pm or get kicked off the Bridge property."

An official with The Bridge has not yet responded to a request for comment but an independent source confirms the facility has drastically cut down on the number of individuals police are allowed to bring in at night.

See also: Federal Judge: Dallas Ministries Can Feed the Homeless Wherever They Damn Well Please

The sleeping-in-public ban has been around long enough that's it's not often discussed, but it was controversial when it was implemented in the early 1990s and sparked a class action lawsuit by Dallas' homeless. They scored an initial victory in 1994, when a federal judge forbade Dallas police from enforcing the ban, reasoning that, because shelter space is limited, and because human beings need sleep, the measure amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

The decision was reversed on appeal, although not because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found the measure constitutional. Since none of the tickets or arrests made under the law ever led to convictions, the homeless plaintiffs didn't have standing to bring their case.

In other words, Dallas is free to arrest people for sleeping in public all it wants so long as it doesn't actually prosecute them. Which is what appears to happening every morning downtown.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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98 comments
jeffreydavidmorris
jeffreydavidmorris

I am homeless, but not by choice, I use to have a life, was involved and stood up, time and my own $, = RUINED, RETALIATED AGAINIST, sigh, what can I say, I just wanna get back on my feet, have other's back, heal, recover, live again; Google me: jeffreydavidmorris, http://www.jeffreydavidmorris.com 

brechiner
brechiner

If it costs $10k to house them and $32K to keep them on the streets, which is better for the homeless person?

rusknative
rusknative

put them on a bus to New York City....Cuomo says they don't won't any conservatives in the state, so send them homeless bums....they are akin to liberal democrats anyway

GAA214
GAA214

Dallas is the 9th largest city in the US.  Homeless people are a fact of life.  Instead of arresting the poor souls, they should give them a hot meal and some water.  It pisses me off when they fuck with homeless folk who are already down on their luck.  

hwy77
hwy77

Our new $400k per year city manager is on it. No doubt he will resolve all the problems discussed here in short order. Its above my pay grade, but would suggest a twofer; put all these street people in Victory Park plaza; all that space with nothing going on there 24/7. We can keep an eye on them through WFAA-TV's webcams.  

jkwaghorne
jkwaghorne

Just a side note on The Bridge. MDHA was never suppose to be in charge of The Bridge. The two people who were put in charge...A) never had any experience running a shelter or 24hr facility B) one of the people in charge had experience talking to homeless people back in the 1970's, that was his experience in the field C) And these two got a combine salary for close to 4 hundred thousand per year. 

jkwaghorne
jkwaghorne

As far as the law banning sleeping in public, the homeless individual who brought the lawsuit was murdered (Prince Johnstons' murder was never solved) and therefore (not standing) was ruled. As far as being tormented by the police and the actions of The Bridge, I would refer to earlier statements by the Director of MDHA in conjunction with the current Mayor, that no one would be turned away. I also state that the annual homeless census count has been manipluated by the agency and City of Dallas for political and funding reasons. I do not make this statement lightly, but can prove these things. The citizens of Dallas and the homeless are being "screwed" for lack of a better term. I would remind the Mayor, Councilmembers and police that Dallas was rated at one time the 6th meanest city in America concerning how it dealt with our homeless neighbors. This certainly had a negative impact on our City and those with political aspirations.

smichaelclark591
smichaelclark591

New York's Mayor in the 90's handed out to the homeless  1 way bus tickets to South Florida.  Cleared out the homeless in 10 days.  

Americano
Americano

Probably saving them from freezing to death.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

Yesterday I counted fifteen under the bridge at I-35 and Medical District Drive, and that was at lunchtime.    From the packs and piles of clothes it appeared that maybe twice that many sleep there at night. 

kjxvii
kjxvii

@holmantx Same issue on the other side of Downtown (West End) where I live. Cant leave the house without seeing a human crap in the parking garage or without smelling puddles of urine everywhere. Its worse when I actually feel like I have to apologize when i startle one that is sleeping in the garage.


In hindsight, I should have done more research about the bum issue in the west end (West End Station + Greyhound) but nevertheless it wont ever be a viable location until something is done about the vagrancy. 

commonsensecaring
commonsensecaring

Last year there were over 1100 calls for ambulance, over 800 calls for police, and nearly 15% of all emergency mental health arrests for Central Division came from The Bridge. I'll let you determine for yourself how that applies to security and quality of life.

The Bridge brings the homeless to that area. When the homeless won't partake of services that help generate grant money, they have police remove them from their property. The point of The Bridge was to give shelter AND services not just generate grant money.

John1073
John1073

At least jail is indoors. Thanks Dallas!

ruddski
ruddski

The FWST followed some "homeless" families for a while, reporting progress year-to-year.

In almost every photo of them or the motels they and the kids lived in, the smokes and beer were prominent.

People end up this way mostly through poor decision-making, and deciding to spend $5 on smokes or beer rather than food for the kids is an example of piss-poor decisions.

I feel for the kids, but the parents? No. Enjoy the buzz, assholes.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

These people are not outside the Bridge because it is full, are they?  It is because the Bridge has minimal rules and they have either violated the rules or purposely avoided them.  You cannot drink, use drugs, carry weapons or get into fights if you want to stay at the Bridge.  Don't we even have kennels there for people with pets?  We spent a lot of money to help these people.  I would think self preservation would get everyone in that circumstance to do the minimum to stay warm and use the facilities we built..

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Can't imagine why the Downtown crowd would object to the Metroplex dumping it's homeless there.  It is only the most densely populated area in the state, if you include the daytime workers.

I live in Deep Ellum.  I can walk right outside my door and there will be a pile of human shit in a corner.  Trash of all kinds thrown down and waiting for me to pick it up - every day. Adds to the charm of the place.

Three blocks over is a 55,000 square foot mega distribution center for the homeless under construction along with some proposed dormitories.

I have no idea what people are complaining about.  This was all settled when the City built that $27 million dollar Mega Shelter.  It was immediately filled past capacity.  Why?

Build it and they will come.

And of course, churches and the people who care (NIMBY) set up feeding stations in and around downtown (to keep them out of their neighborhoods) every day.

If you don't want the wild animals hanging around, don't feed them.  Remove the food source.  Set up the feeding stations where you DO want them to congregate.

It's pretty simple, really.

Otherwise, what is the solution?

And only the people who actually have to deal with this should comment.  

And it is probably the reason why the Dallas Observer moved out of Downtown - security and no  homeless people to deal with.

rusknative
rusknative

@jkwaghorne but go far enough back, and Dallas was also headquarters of the KKK....so how "mean" do you want to claim?

ruddski
ruddski

Southeast Florida is just NYC South, so no-one there really noticed.

ruddski
ruddski

Be sure to let Myrna know how many of them were children.

ruddski
ruddski

Organizing for America!

jkwaghorne
jkwaghorne

@commonsensecaring You are absolutely correct....Most peole do not realize that MDHA was not suppose to run The Bridge and that those who were eventually put in charge never had any experience in running a 24 hr. facility and one didn't have any experience dealing with the homeless population except to talking to some back in the 1970's.. But getting paid over 350,000 dollars I guess can make you think you can do anything..

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@commonsensecaring The Bridge was not meant to be a warehouse.  It was to be first step on path back to a normal life.  If someone has issues with taking those steps, they do not belong there.  It was sized to accommodate enough people at different points in that process.  Those people though have to be in the process.  To my knowledge, the Bridge has not run out of space for those people.


If they are not in the Bridge, why hang around the Bridge?  I would expect Dallas has lot better places for shelter than that area.  It is also not a good area to panhandle.

mcedars
mcedars

@commonsensecaring  Given those numbers, would it not make more sense to move the Bridge to a location outside the CBD and nearer services that the homeless need, such as Medical treatment, MH treatment, counseling, close to public transportation. Maybe on a campus with a large outdoor area for those "service resistant" individuals, who choose not to come indoors, but can still benefit from the proximity of services. That way, the people who choose not to go into the programs will at least not be violating individual property owners rights. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@ruddski  You feel nothing for the kids, nor anyone else.  Your comments over the years prove you have zero compassion.

CarWash
CarWash

And what a buzz it is too.

manpanties
manpanties

@holmantx  Is it that simple?  Seems they need to stay close to busy intersections and places with concentrations of cheap liquor/drugs, which is apparently your front stoop.  It maybe worth it for the homeless to pass on free soup, if that soup is too far from their cash flow, which gets them things they really want, like cheap alcohol and drugs.

ruddski
ruddski

I have compassion for your poor cats, neighbors, friends and family, does that count?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@manpanties @holmantx  Deep Ellumites do not give money to the homeless.  In fact, panhandling is illegal.  The problem is their handlers.  Neighborhood Associations push them down town and Non-profits pull them downtown, then represent them.

  1. Brochure: Downtown Panhandling - Holland Rescue Missionwww.hollandrescue.org/filerequest/1610‎panhandling Downtown. The first step is understanding the law. The City of Dallasrecently approved a Panhandling Ordinance that makes it illegal to  ...
  2. [PDF]Street Smart Dallas: Know Your Rights! - The Stewpotthestewpot.org/pdf/streetsmartdallas.pdf‎15.1 Panhandling or Begging. 16.1 Menacing .... 13.2 Dallas city ordinances say you may not urinate or ... the city of Dallas as long as the panhandler does not . . .

rusknative
rusknative

@ruddski Wellesley produced a large crop of future homeless to claim their spot under bridges for sleeping. IQ is not the equivalent of smart or sensible.

ruddski
ruddski

Then I seriously doubt you'll get an honest answer, Myrna's a liberal democrat.

That is, if you get a reply at all.

But, while we wait, here's something really, really funny.

"[T]his highly lifelike sculpture has, within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for many members of our campus community," says the petition. "While it may appear humorous, or thought-provoking to some, it has already become a source of undue stress for many Wellesley College students, the majority of whom live, study, and work in this space."

http://www.boston.com/yourcampus/news/wellesley/2014/02/realistic_statue_of_man_in_his_underwear_at_wellesley_college_sparks_controversy.html

ruddski
ruddski

@nambla

Asking me? I've actually taken in two homeless kids, both minorities. But that was a custom in my family, my mom collected strays of any color.

In both cases, I took legal custodial responsibility with the parents' agreement and at my youngest daughter's insistence. That means when they skipped school, I was liable. In both cases, I got screwed by these kids, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't do it again.

rusknative
rusknative

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @ruddski cats are totally narcissists and have no love for humans....humans are merely their enablers.  if there were not a bunch of old dried up biddies advocating for cats, there would be a bounty out for their dead bodies.  my favorite sight on the highway is a flat muddy cat corpse being chomped by buzzards.

ruddski
ruddski

Try not feeding the cats for a few days, hon. Feel the love.

As for the others, remember my Golden Rule of History - leftists live and breath lies, and the chance there is any ideological diversity in your sewing circle is roughly nil.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@ruddski  I'm quite popular I'll have you know, and my cats are quite adoring of their Myrna.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@ruddski  

Nothing a little fracking wouldn't cure.

ruddski
ruddski

Gee what a surprise.

ruddski
ruddski

Homeless is to bums as immigrant is to illegal alien as Great Leap Forward is to mass murder.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@WhiteWhale @holmantx @manpanties  

Homeless is a fairly innocuous, harmless term.

Drifters, sex offenders, pedophiles, early releasers, drug addicts, schizophrenics and assorted free spirits populate the term.

Used by the press only to separate them from the homeless when they haul ass with your property or your child.  Caring is a full time job.  Actually doing something about it is quite simple.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@holmantx @manpantiesMaybe if the feeding station people had to spend a few months cleaning up the shit piles they would be less enthusiastic.

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