The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) released Criminalizing Crisis: The Criminalization of Homelessness in America on November 15. The report summarizes findings from a survey of 234 cities on their laws criminalizing homelessness by making illegal activities such as sitting, sleeping or storing personal belongings in public, even if there is no available shelter space or affordable housing.
The report provides examples of how local statutes impact people experiencing homelessness and also recommends policies for cities to address problems associated with homelessness. For example, the study cites Hennepin County, MN, which created a street outreach program “to connect homeless individuals with needed services [including housing] and divert them from involvement with the criminal justice system.”
According to findings cited in the report, more than 90% of cities responded that increased resources for affordable housing were necessary for them to effectively address homelessness in their communities. As such, one of the top recommendations made in the report was for communities and the federal government “to provide additional affordable housing, supportive housing, and other resources.”
“Unsheltered homeless people are often cited for performing necessary and life-sustaining activities in public places despite having no legal place to perform such activities. This criminalization creates barriers to employment, housing, and services that make it more difficult to move out of homelessness. By making sure there is adequate affordable housing, cities will decrease homelessness and the resulting criminalization of homeless persons,” say the NLCHP authors in the report.
NLCHP will host a webinar on the findings in the report on November 29 from 2 pm to 3 pm ET.
The report is available at http://www.nlchp.org/news.cfm?id=170.
Readers can register for the webinar at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/208763562