Vagrant is a term that isn't used as often as it once was, although there are still laws in many places dealing with vagrancy. People use the term "vagrant" when they want to describe a particular kind of criminal homelessness. Usually this is defined based on whether or not the individual has the physical and mental ability to support himself. Those who can work, but choose instead to live a homeless lifestyle, are sometimes branded by certain legal systems as vagrants.
Vagrancy laws were generally created as a way to control street crime, or as a way to, "clean up the street." Some communities believed that homelessness, in general, was a menace of sorts, and they created laws to discourage it. Sometimes these laws were enforced very strictly, while in other cases, they might not be enforced at all. Often, more affluent communities might have more stringent vagrant enforcement, while less affluent communities under the same legal system sometimes ignored it.
Many vagrant laws handle a broader range of behaviors besides homelessness. For example, a person might be charged with vagrancy simply for being drunk in public, or engaging in certain illegal activities. There have also been cases where someone who isn't actually able to work might get a vagrancy charge anyway, even though this isn't necessarily legally acceptable in most cases.
Throughout history, experts suggest there have been incidents where vagrancy laws were sometimes abused by authorities. For example, sometimes they were used as a way to control minority populations or criminalize poverty so that poorer individuals would automatically have fewer rights than other individuals. Legal experts suggest that many vagrancy laws are defined very broadly, and sometimes authorities have used them as a way to charge people when there wasn't necessarily an obvious crime taking place.
In many cases, legal systems have struck down laws regarding vagrant behavior because they gave police too much leeway to identify a vagrant. When laws were too open-ended, sometimes police might identify a person as a vagrant simply because the community wanted an excuse to get rid of him. Overall, many countries have softened their stances on vagrancy over time. Some governments have become more concerned with providing assistance to people without homes instead of trying to find reasons to make them leave the community. This isn't always the case, though, and vagrancy charges still happen from time to time in certain areas.