Is Good Sam Responsible?
Garland’s homeless population is growing with encampments under the bridges, groups congregating at our central library, in the downtown square and several other locations. Where do they come from, and why have they chosen Garland as their destination? What should we be doing, as responsible citizens, to help get these folks off our streets and public places?
When downtown business owner Brenda Ross told me that her yoga class members were afraid to go out to their parked cars alone due to an encampment across the street, I suggested she contact Garland PD Officer Wendy Sheriff. Officer Sheriff has been working with the city’s homeless population for the past few years. In addition to her actual face to face work with the homeless, she is also an educator. Her audiences are taught to put the homeless folks into two categories: Homeless by Choice, and Homeless by Circumstance. Those individuals who are homeless by circumstance can be given assistance and will most often find their way back with a roof over their heads and a way to support themselves. Those who have chosen homelessness as their lifestyle are the problem, according to Officer Sheriff. Once these vagrants have been on the street for more than five years they have difficulty adhering to rules, regulations and the type of commitment maintaining a home requires.
Some of those folks we now share our city streets with have been on the street for decades. Where have they come from? The vast majority have come from Dallas, Officer Sheriff tells us. The percentage of Garland residents finding themselves among the homeless population is miniscule, she adds. The success rate for rehousing the unhoused individuals is about 2%, we are told. “You can take the boy out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the boy”, she adds. They come to Garland by DART train or bus, and forget to leave. Why do they come and choose to stay in Garland? Good Samaritans of Garland, Inc. provides them with food and services that include medical by a mobilized Parkland facility. Good Sam has agreed to stop sheltering the homeless folks on the patio, and we’re told that Garland PD patrols that property to be sure no one is camping there overnight.
The abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol play a large part in the lives of the homeless individuals, as does moderate to severe mental illnesses. For that reason we must take all of their threats seriously, Officer Sheriff advises, and we should all heed her advice.
The Myanmar Christain Church at 701 State Street had given permission to the group of characters who have been camping on their premises, so the city could do nothing to make them pack up and leave. They play loud music, urinate against the building, and Officer Sheriff says she has taken photos of the mounds of feces accumulating around the church building, resulting in a terrible odor. The pastor of that church does have the authority to have the group removed from the church property. Until he decides to do that, the music blares, the group of five or six men get drunk, fight, and create a public nuisance and instill fear in nearby businesses and their customers.
There are similar situations being encountered by Garland citizens in dozens of other areas around their city. Let’s do what we can to discourage the feral folks who are posing a threat to our way of life. Let’s not accept this as the “new norm”.
Nancy GhirlaEmail: [email protected]