Dallas is preparing for an influx of homeless people to the county jail because city officials have prohibited the homeless from spending the night at the city’s Day Resource Center, the Dallas Morning News reports. County commissioners are mulling how to improve the book-in process at the jail to identify homeless people and send those charged with minor offenses to at diversion program that handles cases involving the mentally ill. The diversion program already faces a daunting task of finding appropriate housing for those enrolled. Yesterday, 297 jail inmates identified themselves as homeless. The swollen jail population of more than 7,000 has forced the county to open four floors of an overflow facility.
The resource center policy change stems from an agreement with the building’s owner after neighboring businesses complained that homeless people were littering and hanging around their properties. To counter the effects of their antipsychotic medication, some mentally ill people must take tranquilizers to sleep, which makes it harder for them to abide by early wake-up rules in some shelters. More homeless people on the streets could lead to more public nuisance calls and more arrests by police. Many homeless people are unable to post bond or pay the fines that would get them out of jail quickly. They work off their fines with days in jail – inflating the already crowded jail’s population.