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Vagrancy - A Growing Social Problem in Dominica

Updated on December 18, 2017

Young Vagrant Searching a Drain in Roseau


Definition of Vagrancy

A vagrant can be defined as a homeless person without a regular income who roams the streets begging. Historically vagrancy has been linked to poverty, misfortune or idleness. Today the causes are more varied and drug use has become a very significant contributor to this phenomenon.

The Parro - a Vagrant in Dominica

Vagrancy is increasingly becoming a serious problem in my country particularly in the urban areas. We have a peculiar type of vagrant which is referred to locally as “parros”. They are persons who became vagrants as a result of drug abuse. These parros are mainly found at various spots around the capital city, Roseau and the main town, Portsmouth where expectedly, there are better opportunities for soliciting. There are a few women parros, but the majority of parros are men, most of who appear to be able bodied and intelligent. Many of them are high school drop outs who could have had a promising future. In fact, some parros come from well-to-do and respectable families.

Drug Abuse and Vagrancy

What, one may ask would push an intelligent and able bodied young person into drug use to the extent that he/she would end up begging on the streets? It is a fact that many youth of high school age try drugs at some point in their school career be it for curiosity, excitement, fashion or simply to fit in with their peers. Many are able to make a safe and timely exit while the unfortunate get hooked and end up on the streets. As a former teacher, I can attest that some of the parros who approach me for a dollar were once bright students who could have done well and emerged as productive, progressive citizens if they had not succumbed to the attraction of drugs and fallen into addiction. In developing countries like mine where many parents are unable to afford the cost of rehabilitation overseas, there is not much hope of recovery for these youths once they reach that point. This is the sad, stark reality. Sadly, not only young persons, but also mature individuals surrender to this deadly attraction. Consequently, one sees individuals who were once upright and productive citizens with family commitments now drug addicts, roaming the streets begging.

The Impact of Vagrancy on Society

Vagrancy is a terrible life situation for the individual who has to sleep on sidewalks and beg for a daily meal. It is humiliating to their families and embarrassing to their friends. However, worse is the negative impact which their presence has on society. Certainly, there are persons who treat them with compassion and humanitarian groups which look after their rights and protection. However, for the majority, parros are a threat, an inconvenience or an annoyance.

To the average man on the street who wishes to go about his business without hindrance, it is definitely a nuisance to be accosted at every turn by seemingly healthy and able persons asking for a dollar. Sometimes, you may pity them and wish to help, but there are times when you ask yourself why you should work to feed someone who is apparently making no effort to find some form of employment at least to meet his own basic needs. You also wonder whether that dollar of which you deprive yourself actually goes toward a meal or toward purchasing drugs.

To home owners parros are a decided threat for their practice is to scout around for homes which are unoccupied, invade these places and carry away all items which appear to be sellable and eventually use there for sleeping at night. This has made it necessary for people with unoccupied property to be very vigilant where the parros are concerned. Even when going away on vacation, one must take measures to have someone check one's property regularly to avoid an unpleasant surprise on one’s return home.

Parros are decidedly, an annoyance to business owners for it is at the entrance to business places that they station themselves to solicit money from clients or customers as they go in and out. This can be quite problematic since their presence could serve as a deterrent to clients and therefore a threat to the business place.

The tourism sector could likewise, be extremely adversely affected by the presence and actions of these people all over the city. When the cruise ship passengers disembark for their land tours they want a pleasurable experience. No visitor wants to be accosted or even harassed by an unpleasant smelling vagrant. They give negative reviews on destinations which do not allow them to enjoy their cruise experience causing cancellations and withdrawals by cruise lines. The tourism department is therefore extremely stern on this matter because as a destination the country cannot afford to get a low rating because visitors are being turned off by vagrants. The Tourism Minister has called for collaboration form all stakeholders to address this troubling situation.

The Tourism Minister Says that Vagrancy Cannot be Handled by the Government Alone

Tourism Minister, Robert Tonge
Tourism Minister, Robert Tonge | Source

A Multi Sectorial Approach to the Vagrancy Problem

Recently, a multi sectorial approach has been determined to be the best method for dealing with the problem. Therefore, the Ministries of Tourism, Health, Social Services and National Security are partnering in an effort to find a solution which would be humanitarian hence, looking after the interests and wellbeing of the vagrants while at the same time effectively eradicating the annoyance which they cause to others and the threat to the business and the tourism sectors. A call has been issued for all to play their part in solving the problem since the Government could not realistically be expected to do it alone.

The root of the vagrancy problem is of course, drugs and to totally eradicate the problem it would be necessary to aim at the root, but how achievable is this? The drug problem is massive and far more difficult than its product, vagrancy. However, a start must be made . Therefore to begin with the vagrancy problem might be worthwhile even if only the first step in the process.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      What kind of activities are now in process to resolve the situation?

    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      4 years ago from Dominica

      FlourishAnyway, Thank you for reading. As I said in my last comment, the drugs are cocaine and marijuana. There are already strict laws against drug trafficking and drug use and people are being fined, sentenced or both all the time. The police are sometimes criticized for responding more promptly to drug related calls than others.Within the Ministry of Health there is a Drug Prevention Unit which does extensive outreach and advocacy, going out to schools, communities, groups etc. In short, a lot is being done, but the fact remains that the drug trade is a very lucrative one and to the traffickers, it is worth whatever the risk hence, the problem continues to be a challenge.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      What are the chief drugs driving the vagrancy problem and what specific plans does the government have to dry up the source of the drugs (i.e., stricter crime laws and sentencing) and deal with the demand (i.e., public education campaign)?

    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      4 years ago from Dominica

      Jodah, thanks reading and for your thoughts on the matter. Our parros are mainly cocaine and marijuana addicts.

    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      4 years ago from Dominica

      Erickdierker thank you for reading and for your comment. Certainly vagrancy is not synonymous with homelessness. Its meaning varies based on the social context. I do not know the statistics, but I do not think that we have many people on the streets who are homeless because of poverty or because they have fallen into hard times. We are a small country where people reach out to one another. However, when people surrender to drugs they sometimes destroy their homes and families by selling household belongings to buy the drugs, then when there is nothing left they hit the streets in an effort to get money to buy more drugs. My hub is about this type of vagrant.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Joyette, thank you for sharing this. I found it an interesting read. A lot of vagrants here are alcoholics, some drug users though I don't know statistics. Many are driven to these things because of circumstances out of their control however. I had not heard of "parros" before.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Joyette, thank you for sharing this. I found it an interesting read. A lot of vagrants here are alcoholics, some drug users though I don't know statistics. Many are driven to these things because of circumstances out of their control however. I had not heard of "parros" before.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Interesting concept. Vagrancy does not mean homelessness where I come from. You could have a homeless vagrant or one from a nice home. I have been called a vagrant as I like to get out and just hang out. Parros is an interesting concept. We find here that it is the refusal to take prescribed drugs that leads to homelessness in far more cases than abuse of drugs.

    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      4 years ago from Dominica

      Au Fait, thank you for your observation. There are many homeless people in Dominica but my focus is on the "parros" those who hit the streets as a result of drug addiction. I am not looking at the entire homeless population.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      4 years ago from North Texas

      Everyone thinks drugs and alcohol are the root of the problem of homelessness here in the states too, but in fact only 20% of homeless people have that problem out of 3.5 million homeless people here.

      Afraid I'm not inclined to accept drugs and alcohol as the problem where you live either, because it seems to be the easy answer people like to use for rationalizing their egregious attitude, and their lack of compassion for people who have fallen on the hardest of times through no fault of their own.

      Show me the stats and don't make them up. Research is my specialty, so make sure your stats are credible. I don't care about antidotal evidence. That's worth as much as opinion. I want cold hard facts. Not nice to say bad things about people who already have it too hard if you have nothing to back it up.

      Spreading the idea that all or most homeless people are on drugs and alcohol only makes their lives harder. People who don't know any better like to believe lies and gossip and spread them further. Gossip is cheap, and without facts, that's all it is. One or 2 drunks or junkies in the bunch doesn't justify painting everyone with the same brush.


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