What if it was illegal to sit down?
This poignant question was posed by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in the 11th iteration of “No Safe Place,” the advocacy group’s report on the criminalization of homelessness. The report found that in cities across the United States homeless individuals are criminally punished for being in public even when they have no other alternatives.
At a time when nearly 160,000 individuals experience homelessness on a given night, U.S. cities have increasingly created laws that ban sleeping in public, loitering, panhandling, and sleeping in vehicles, effectively making it illegal to be homeless. For example, over the past three years, bans on sleeping in vehicles have increased 119%, while laws against begging have increased 25%, and laws against camping in public have increased 60%. At the same time, resources for individuals who are homeless appear to be decreasing: affordable housing resources have decreased about 13% over the past three years. These policies have steadily crept up in cities and rural areas all across the U.S. In February, we published a blog post on Osceola County in Florida, who spent roughly $5 million dollars arresting homeless individuals over the past nine years.
These laws sharply juxtapose recent housing initiatives in Vancouver, where local organization RainCity Housing has created pop-up roofs to add to benches for homeless individuals to use on rainy nights (check out our recent blog post on this topic).
Why do you think cities propose these types of laws? Why isn’t there more political will to create policies and adjudicate resources to alleviate poverty? What laws would be better alternatives?
Welcome to the conversation!
Welcome to the conversation!
Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.
The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.
The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate
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