It’s Illegal to be Homeless

Its Illegal to be Homeless
Homelessness has been a constant presence in American cities, towns, and rural areas for many years and a major problem in our society.During the recession of 1981-82 it was identified as a national issue for the first time since the Great Depression. Since the early 1980s, homelessness has been a regular focus of media interest and a topic of policy debate.
The reasons for homelessness are many. Lack of affordable housing remains a formidable obstacle to solving the homeless crisis. However, the recent trends in homelessness include an increase in homeless women and children directly attributable to domestic violence. Therefore, the homeless population is growing. The National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project (NHCROP)- a project of the National Coalition for the Homeless- has partnered with the National Law Center on Homelessness ; Poverty to compile data samplings from 80 communities, both urban and rural, in 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The National Law Center on Homelessness ; Poverty has published five similar reports in the past decade. Theirs is the most comprehensive examination of its type on this issue to date.
Homeless persons find their civil rights threatened in an increasing number of communities, according to a new report released by homeless advocacy groups. The report finds that more jurisdictions are enacting laws that effectively criminalize homelessness by prohibiting activities such as sleeping or camping in public, even when no shelter beds are available.
The report finds that the use of these ordinances is increasing. Almost 80 percent of the cities surveyed in the 2002 report have laws that prohibit sleeping/ camping in public areas. Meanwhile, 100 percent of communities surveyed lack enough shelter beds to meet demand.

The report distinguishes California as the meanest state in the country for people who are poor and homeless, with New York City vying with Atlanta, GA and San Francisco, CA- the three meanest cities nationally- for top notoriety. special mention goes to Palm Beach County, FL for their chillingly Orwellian methods of tracking people who are homeless.
“Homelessness will not disappear simply by putting people behind bars. We need to address the systemic causes and look at real solutions. The burden of poverty is far too great to be exacerbated by the criminalization of the impoverished. Affordable housing, health care and livable wages are what we need to truly bring an end to homelessness.” stated Donald Whitehead, formerly homeless and now Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. In a country where there is no jurisdiction where minimum wage earners can afford the lowest Fair Market Rent, and where rates of homelessness are rapidly growing, it is increasingly difficult for many to avoid jail as a substitute for housing.

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A report published by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness ; Poverty cites 80 communities documented in the as have laws and ordinances:
Albuquerque, NM
Anchorage, AK
Athens, GA
Atlanta, GA
Atlantic City, NJ
Austin, TX
Baltimore, MD
Boston, MA
Buena Park, CA
Buffalo, NY
Charleston, SC
Charlotte, NC
Chicago, IL
Cincinnati, OH
Cleveland, OH
Colorado Springs, CO
Columbus, OH
Covington, KY
Dallas, TX
Decatur, GA
Denver, CO
Detroit, MI
El Paso, TX
Fort Worth, TX
Fresno, CA
Honolulu, HI
Houston, TX
Indianapolis, IN
Jacksonville, FL
Jeffersonville, IN
Kansas City, MO
Las Vegas, NV
Lexington, KY
Long Beach, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Louisville, KY
Lynnwood, WA
Memphis, TN
Mesa, AZ
Miami, FL
Milwaukee, WI
Minneapolis, MN
Nashville, TN
New Orleans, LA
New York, NY
Norfolk, VA
Oakland, CA
Oklahoma City, OK
Omaha, NE
Palm Beach County, FL
Philadelphia, PA
Phoenix, AZ
Pittsburgh, PA
Pontiac, MI
Portland, ME
Portland, OR
Providence, RI
Reno, NV
Rio Piedras, PR
Sacramento, CA
Salt Lake City, UT
San Angelo, TX
San Antonio, TX
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA
San Jose, CA
San Juan, PR
Santa Cruz, CA
Santurce, PR
Seattle, WA
Sioux Falls, SD
St. Louis, MO
Toledo, OH
Trenton, NJ
Tucson, AZ
Tulsa, OK
Valdosta, GA
Virginia Beach, VA
Washington, DC
Wheeling, WV
12 Meanest Cities List:
New York, NY
Atlanta, GA
San Francisco, CA
Salt Lake City, UT
Jacksonville, FL
Pontiac, MI
Santa Cruz, CA
Austin, TX
Chicago, IL
Honolulu, HI
Baltimore, MD
Palm Beach County, FL
Meanest State: California
Efforts to reduce homelessness depend, in part, on accessible information. Information about “special needs populations”, communities, the distribution of homelessness and service gaps. Information that can be used to address the specific needs of the community. The homeless problem in the United States, as well as in the world and it will not go away. In fact, it is getting much worse every year. One of the reasons this is not a popular topic to talk about is that we live in the “greatest country in the world”, and we have tens of thousands of men, women and children wandering our streets with no place to call home. This is a national tragedy. Those who hold political office, and all those who just want to make a difference will have to address the problem head-on and come to a resolution. A resolution that seeks to improve the lives of all Americans, not one that sweeps the issue under the rug through incarceration. This is America’s problem, and we must find a way to solve it.


Bibliography
Creating Social Justice; End Homelessness Now. www.endhomelessnessnow.org
Regional Task Force on Homelessness. www.co.san-diego.ca.us
Homelessness: Programs and the People they serve. www.huduser.org/publications/homeless