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

Richard Spieglman


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 homeless arrestees were much higher than the rates of homelessness for the communities where arrestees lived. 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. 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.

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