The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has released a new report, No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities.
According to its research, sit-lie laws, anti-sleeping bans, and anti-panhandling laws are now the tools that cities use to drive people they consider undesirable away or at least out of sight.
Write the reports’ authors,
“Imagine a world where it is illegal to sit down. Could you survive if there were no place you were allowed to fall asleep, to store your belongings, or to stand still? For most of us, these scenarios seem unrealistic to the point of being ludicrous. But, for homeless people across America, these circumstances are an ordinary part of daily life.”
The report contains a great deal of useful data, for example:
Laws prohibiting “camping” in public:
- 34% of cities impose city-wide bans on camping in public.
- 57% of cities prohibit camping in particular public places (such as public parks.)
Laws prohibiting sleeping in public:
- 18% of cities impose city-wide bans on sleeping in public.
- 27% of cities prohibit sleeping in particular public places.
Atlantic City and Newark were two of the cities studied in compiling this report. It lists these cities ordinances related to sleeping in public city-wide, sleeping in particular public places, loitering/loafing in particular, begging in public places city, and begging in particular public particular public places.
One of the reports key policy recommendations is that the federal government should invest in affordable housing at the scale necessary to end and prevent homelessness.
“Homelessness continues to affect Americans across the country, including a rising number of families and children. Despite the need, there is insufficient affordable housing and shelter availability across the country, leaving people with no choice but to struggle for survival on the streets. Although homeless people have no choice but to perform life-sustaining conduct in public places, cities continue to treat these activities as criminal.”