Harassed by the homeless? Try proper approach before fight or flight

DALLAS -- When a homeless man attacks two women in downtown Dallas in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, people tend to take notice.

"It's scary. It's really scary," downtown resident David Seng said.

Brandon Holbert (Courtesy Dallas Jail)

22-year-old homeless man Brandon Holbert told Dallas Police he did it simply because he thought the women took a picture of him. The question is, how can you avoid a similar situation in a downtown area that's increasingly overrun with homeless?

Perhaps a 'fight' response is the only truly effective way.

"Especially down here I'm ready to tell someone, 'Hey, back off,'" Seng said. "They will if you're kinda forceful enough."

Of course, you can't have one without the other. Is the 'flight' response the better option here?

"Sometimes they yell things at me," downtown resident David Kaye said. "For the most part, I just ignore them."

Maybe our response is on the wrong timeline, though. The homeless who lash out tend to be struggling with mental health issues, acting in ways that don't make sense.

"One gentleman said, 'You better watch it next time!'" Kaye said. "I hadn't said a word to him beforehand."

Instead of fighting or fleeing the homeless, Austin Street Center Director Daniel Roby said now is an important crossroad for their mental health.

"If we want people with mental illness to get better, we need to find them appropriate care, and the street isn't it," he told NewsFix.

He pointed out mental health for the homeless is a one-stop shop right now, all done at Medical City Green Oaks. Most of the time they don't even end up there. They end up in jail like Brandon Holbert.

He says it's time for more options.

"We need a broad array of support structures for people with different types of challenges," he said.

There's no better time than the present to help our most needy residents.