On July 16, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) released No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities. The report summarizes a survey of 187 cities that gauges the extent to which cities have enacted laws to restrict or prohibit basic human activities of people experiencing homelessness. Data are compared to findings from a survey done in 2011.
More than half of the cities surveyed have laws that restrict or prohibit an individual from sitting or lying down in public, a 43% increase since 2011. Laws that prohibit an individual from living in a vehicle have increased 119% since 2011. And there has been “a 60% increase in citywide bans on basic activities, suggesting that the nature of criminalization is changing. Rather than limiting criminalization laws to certain parts of a city, like downtown commercial districts or tourist areas, more cities are banning these activities throughout the entire community, effectively making it illegal to be homeless anywhere in the city.”
The authors provide policy recommendations to address the report’s findings for federal, state, and local governments. Recommendations to federal agencies include immediate funding of the National Housing Trust Fund by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. HUD is urged to direct fewer McKinney-Vento homeless assistance grant dollars to communities that criminalize homelessness, and encourage PHAs to use their discretion to accept people with certain criminal histories. The authors also want the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness to “publicly oppose specific local criminalization measures,” and to continue to talk about housing as a human right.
The report is at: http://nlchp.org/documents/No_Safe_Place