The City’s Office of Homeless Solutions initiates the panhandling deflection program

Panhandlers are more visible during the holidays than any other time of year. It’s natural to want to give to our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. However, panhandling creates potential safety issues for donors and recipients. In an effort to deter public solicitation, the City’s Office of Homeless Solutions initiated the Panhandling Deflection Program right before the Thanksgiving holiday. A specialized team including a Marshal and Crisis Outreach worker will address panhandlers in high concentrated areas and offer alternatives to meet their temporary and permanent needs. The City understands that not everyone who panhandles is necessarily homeless, but for our neighbors who are, we strongly encourage them to seek refuge at a shelter where other resources are available to address medical and behavioral health, housing and job placement.

Below is a Q&A on how this 6-month program will work and how the public can assist in this effort:  

1.      When did this program start?

Signage and communication, public education and outreach started before Thanksgiving.

2.      How many teams of City Marshals and crisis intervention caseworkers will be available to respond to calls about panhandlers? 

A Marshal and Crisis Team Outreach worker will work together on this initiative. There will not be teams exclusively dedicated to answering panhandling calls. Calls to 911 regarding panhandling will either be immediately dispatched to DPD or sent to 311 for follow-up by the Marshal/Crisis Intervention team. The Marshal/CIT team will address specific locations based on complaints to 311. These teams will work on selected dates and locations based on the volume of complaints. Community court team members, Marshals and Crisis Intervention personnel teams will also work together during Community Court panhandling diversion initiatives in the field.

3.      What is a “V-citation” and how is that different from a “Class C-citation”? Also, what is the range of resolutions that comes with someone who has a V-citation compared to a Class C-citation?

A Class C Citation is adjudicated in municipal court. Municipal court cases are fine-only offenses. In most traffic cases, the maximum fine is $200 plus court costs. The maximum fine in most penal code offenses is $500 plus court costs. The maximum fine in many city ordinance violations is $2,000. If a defendant decides not to request a trial and wishes to enter a Guilty plea or a No Contest plea, the fine can be paid by mail or at the municipal court cashier window. A list of fine amounts is on the on the back of the citation.

A V-citation for Community Courts focuses on rehabilitating each defendant and restoring the community. Persons issued citations for Quality of Life Class C misdemeanor crimes within a community court’s geographical service area receive notice to swiftly appear before the Community Court Judge. Defendants who plead Guilty or No Contest may be ordered to perform community service restitution in the neighborhood; the judge can also require defendants to attend rehabilitative and educational programs. The Courts assist individuals with housing, job placement, substance abuse, mental health, and other services.

4.      How is the six-month pilot program being paid for?

The costs associated with the Panhandling Deflection Program pilot will be absorbed by the participating departments’ existing budgets.

5.      How is this new initiative different than the “End Panhandling Now” program from 2018?

Several City programs including OIPSS and Mobile Crisis Intervention didn’t exist in 2018. These, in addition to a new Community Courts pilot bringing adjudication to those being given citations, and the ability to offer housing resources through OHS, via the Dallas R.E.A.L. Time Rapid Rehousing (DRTRR) Initiative to those who are homeless, allow for all of the separate pieces to work together in a holistic manner that will act to deflect those illegally soliciting into pathways that will help identify and resolve their root issues rather than arresting them, unless it is absolutely necessary.

6.      How may members of the public help?

Support nonprofit homeless service providers including MDHA’s Dallas Real Time Rapid Rehousing (DRTRR) initiative by volunteering or donating funds to provide the most effective and sustainable help to people experiencing homelessness, while keeping donors and recipients safe.

7.      Where may more information be found?

OHS Service Request Dashboard

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