From Housing Not Handcuffs, Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness
in U.S. Cities, a report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty:
The lack of adequate public shelter for the poor in America’s cities has been accompanied by increasingly criminalization of those who, lacking shelter, sleep on sidewalks, under overpasses, and in their vehicles.
From Al Jazeera:
Cities across the US are enacting more bans on living in vehicles, camping in public and begging, despite federal efforts to discourage such laws amid a shortage of affordable housing, according to a new report.
Denver, which ordered about 150 homeless people living on pavements to clear out their belongings on Tuesday, was among four cities criticised for policies criminalising homelessness in a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an advocacy group aiming to prevent people from losing their homes.
The other cities listed in its “hall of shame” are in Hawaii, Texas and Washington state.
Many cities with increasing home prices have been struggling with homelessness, including Denver and Honolulu, which were reprimanded for an anti-camping law and ban on sitting or lying on sidewalks, respect[ively].
“These laws are unconstitutional and bad public policy,” Maria Foscarinis, the centre’s executive director, said.
More from the center:
Across the country, cities are criminalizing homelessness, making it illegal for people to sit, sleep, and even eat in public places—despite the absence of housing or even shelter, and other basic resources.
These laws and policies violate constitutional rights, create arrest records and fines & fees that stand in the way of homeless people getting jobs or housing, and don’t work. The evidence is clear that homelessness is reduced in communities that focus on housing, and not those that focus on handcuffs.
Criminalization of homelessness costs more money than simply solving the problem by ensuring access to adequate housing.
And there is a growing awareness among the general public that our criminal justice system is not the solution to social problems.
The time is right for a national campaign to stop the criminalization of homelessness—and to push for effective housing policies that end homelessness.
Even supposedly “liberal” cities like Berkeley, California have been aggressively targeting the homeless, and that’s even with one of the nation’s best [but overcrowded] shelter programs.
Earlier this month a city council candidate was arrested when police cleared a homeless tent camp near city hall erected as a protest over the lack of housing.