Stock photo, emmasampsonphotography.com

Stock photo: emmasampsonphotography.com

What, if anything, can you do if someone is living on public property right behind your home?

Rebecca Douglas moved from Cedar Hill into the Woodbridge neighborhood in Lake Highlands last October, and she says she generally has enjoyed her peaceful new place. But a recent experience put her on edge. One night last week, from her son’s upstairs bedroom, she saw a pinpoint of a light emitting from the wooded creek behind her property.

“It was about 10:30 at night. I looked out the window and could tell it was a person with a flashlight.”

She says that while she did not feel directly threatened, it was disconcerting.

When she first moved in, she says, a neighbor advised that if she ever saw anyone or anything suspicious, to call 9-1-1 without hesitation, she says.

“So that’s what I did.”

Police did not respond right away.

As Douglas watched, she also saw sparks, as if the person in the woods was smoking or lighting something, so she called the police again.

This time they responded. Eventually the officers located a man in the woods. They told Douglas that he was homeless and not breaking any laws, so there was nothing they could do.

Side note: sleeping or camping in public actually is against the law in Dallas, but this man was not sleeping when police approached him.

The president of the Lake Highlands Area Improvement Association and Woodbridge resident Murray Morgan told Douglas he would contact the city’s code compliance department, in an effort to remove the man from the woods and get him some help.

“Believe it or not, homeless is not a police responsibility, unless they’re doing something illegal,” Morgan notes.

Douglas says the man is still residing in the woods behind her home. At this point she says she trusts he is not violent or intending harm to anyone.

Update 12/17: Douglas says the man moved out of the woods Tuesday evening. City employees and a couple other unidentified men arrived and pulled sundry items from the creek where the man apparently had been camping long enough to collect a load of belongings. Douglas says it took a moving van to haul him and his things and that she thinks a friend or family member might have been manning the vehicle. 

She is concerned, she says, that he seems to have little food and that the creek where he is camping floods when it rains, as it did, and hard, yesterday, which can be dangerous.

Our neighborhood also is home to several churches and nonprofits that assist people experiencing homelessness. If you encounter a homeless person who asks for help (obviously, they must want the help) a referral to Lifenet or Catholic Charities could prove beneficial.

Helpful numbers:

Dallas code compliance: 214.670.8083 or 3-1-1

Lifenet: 214.221.5433

Catholic Charities of Dallas: 214.520.6590