Is the News on Homelessness Good or Bad?

Focusing on Human Solutions to Homelessness

Miriam Axel-LuteA recent blog posts on Rooflines, Shelterforce’s blog, asks the question, “Is the News on Homelessness Good or Bad?

The National Housing Institute’s Miriam Axel-Lute writes about the renewed attempts to “criminalize homelessness and punish people for being homeless” and evict the residents of “tent cities.”

Yet at the same time, she points to the success of the 100,000 Homes Campaign that is working in communities across the country to house the chronically homeless.

It seems like we’re seeing another wave (did it ever stop exactly?) of attempts to criminalize homelessness and punish people for being homeless. Installation of spikes to deter sleeping (did anyone else feel like they were creepily reminiscent of anti-pigeon spikes?) got a flurry of attention recently, and in at least one case in London the spikes were removed after activists poured concrete on them. (I found the park bench where you had to pay a coin to have the spikes retract to be even grosser than spikes on a ledge myself.)

Cities have been forcing people to move from makeshift encampments (“It will be the fifth time in four years the city has forced him to move, Stewart said. ‘If you had to do this one day in someone else’s shoes, you would hate it.'”). And new laws against survival behaviors like sleeping in your car (Sorry, Lou and Peter Berryman, apparently sometimes someone does deny your right to live in your car) and panhandling are on the rise, probably in response to the face that homelessness itself is on the rise (subscription link).

The irony—and hopefully the hope—in this situation is that it also comes at a time when there seems to be wider spread acceptance of the idea that housing people is cheaper than not housing them and that homelessness actually can be solved. The New York Times noted as much in an editorial that referenced both a court ruling against a car sleeping ban and No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, a report on rising criminalization from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

Axel-Lute poses the question.

“I would like to think that we can choose to put limited public resources and energy into following the more positive of these two paths. What do you think about these two contradicting trends?”

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