A new report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) and the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) ranks the nation’s “Top 10 Meanest Cities” based on city records and practices in criminalizing homelessness. Los Angeles topped the list, with Orlando, Atlanta, and San Francisco also ranking in the top 10.
The national ranking is based on factors that include the number of laws targeting people experiencing homelessness, such as those that make it illegal to sleep, eat, or sit in public spaces; the enforcement of those laws; the general political climate toward homeless people in the city; and the city’s history of criminalization measures. The report includes information from 273 cities nationwide over 2007-2008 period.
Since NLCHP and NCH’s last joint report on the topic in 2006, the groups found an increase in laws enacted to target the homeless, including an 11% increase in laws prohibiting loitering and a 7% increase in laws prohibiting camping in various public places. Among all the cities surveyed for the most recent report, 47% had laws prohibiting loitering and 33% had laws prohibiting camping.
The report also includes information about studies examining the costs of criminalization measures, on how criminalization measures violate human rights law, and on constitutional challenges to measures that criminalize homelessness, as well as constructive alternatives to criminalization.
The other meanest cities, according to the report, were: St. Petersburg, FL (2); Gainesville, FL (5); Kalamazoo, MI (6); Honolulu (8); Bradenton, FL (9); and Berkeley, CA (10).
The report, titled Homes Not Handcuffs, is the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s ninth report on the criminalization of homelessness and the National Coalition for the Homeless’ fifth. The full report is available at: http://nlchp.org/content/pubs/2009HomesNotHandcuffs1.pdf.