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Homeless and Non-Homeless Arrestees: Distinctions in Prevalence and in Sociodemographic, Drug Use, and Arrest Characteristics Across DUF Sites, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1999
49 pages
Analyses of five quarters (fourth quarter of 1995 through the fourth quarter of 1996) of DUF (Drug Use Forecasting) data from 23 metropolitan areas nationwide focused on whether being homeless or not affected being arrested.
The study hypothesized that homeless persons would be arrested more often for less serious crimes than housed persons and would be more likely to be involved with drugs, but not receiving drug treatment. The rates of arrestees who were coded as "homeless" ranged from 6.2 percent for adult males to 2.4 percent for juvenile males. The rates for females were 5 percent for adults and 4.1 percent for juveniles. The rates of homeless arrestees were much higher than the rates of homelessness for the communities where arrestees lived. Even the highest estimates of homelessness nationwide, as reported from research studies, fell well below the levels of homelessness among arrestees. All sites reported arresting a higher percentage of homeless persons than double the highest estimated community homeless rate. After distinguishing three subgroups of adult arrestees and three subgroups of juvenile arrestees based on sociodemographic, arrest-status, drug-use, and drug-history variables, tests of difference on four variables were performed between homeless and housed arrestees. Across subgroups, homeless persons consistently were less likely to be charged with violent crimes than were housed persons. No differences were noted on the other variables. The percentages of homeless arrestees who reported either previous or current participation in drug treatment were compared with the percentages of housed persons so reporting. Proportionately more homeless persons reported previous participation in drug treatment, which was consistent with their higher levels of drug involvement; however, levels of current participation in treatment did not differ between the two groups. This report recommends that more consistent referrals be made to drug treatment for homeless persons. Further, police agencies and the public should be made more aware that homeless persons are not apparently among the more violent offenders. The higher arrest rates of homeless persons compared with housed persons suggests the need for alternative approaches for maintaining order and promoting justice when policing the homeless. 9 tables, 1 figure, 38 references, and appended coded data

Date Published: January 1, 1999