NPR and WashPost Take Up Criminalization

This is how not to do law enforcement. Austin Texas Police in full riot gear patrol near the shelter. These officers cannot be identified and their badges are not visible. Photo by Richard Troxell

NPR had a nice story about the Justice Department weighing in on the Bell vs. Boise Lawsuit.   This was a good assessment of the issues with an interview of Eric Tars of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. It is worth the listen.

The Washington Post also did a good overview of the issue. 

"Homelessness is just becoming more visible in communities, and when homelessness becomes more visible, there’s more pressure on community leaders to do something about it," Tars says. "And rather than actually examining what’s the best thing to do about homelessness, the knee-jerk response — as with so many other things in society — is 'we’ll address this social issue with the criminal justice system.'"

There was a story about this issue here:

By Brian Davis

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We felt that this was such a historic decision that we have dedicated a page on our website to the decision which has a copy of the well written brief.

Does Institutional Violence Provide Cover to Hate Crimes?

Over the weekend the Albuquerque police made an arrest of three young people accused of killing two homeless people.  This after police shot a homeless person who was giving himself up earlier this year.   It seems that cities that mistreat homeless people or pass laws directed at homeless people are also the cities that have higher numbers of hate crimes directed at homeless people.  Albuquerque police have a large number of officers involved in shootings (40) of which 26 were killed since 2010.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty just released a report on the large number of laws directed at homeless people.   The Law Center details the surprising rise in cities which have made it illegal to feed people outside.  There are panhandling laws, anti-sitting laws, anti-"camping" laws, loitering, and no feeding laws.  These "quality of life" ordinances are on the rise, and there are consultants sitting in hotel conference centers crafting new ways to hide homeless people.  Then there are police actions to arrest and hide homeless people.  These include private security for Business Improvement Districts harassing homeless people to go into hiding.  Then in those cities that use law enforcement to solve homelessness there is a corresponding increase in attacks on homeless people

In the 1990s, when there were routine arrests of homeless people for sleeping outside in Cleveland we also saw regular attacks on homeless people.  We saw the stun gun attacks and bricks being thrown from motorists.   We have not seen the level of hate crimes that they see in Cincinnati, which still has not worked out how they deal with a growing population.  If government targets homeless people with laws or arrests it seems to give cover to violent or fringe elements of society to attack fragile populations.  If you place the National Coalition for the Homeless hate crimes report on top of the National Law Center criminalization report you see some huge overlapping cities especially in cities in Florida. 

We have been dealing with homelessness for 40 years, and it seems as though cities have not learned anything.   They still try to deal the problems associated with homeless people instead of dealing with the root cause of homelessness: housing.  They are still trying to regulate homelessness out of existence instead of providing affordable housing and behavioral health services.  Fair share development laws, minimum wage increases, universal access to treatment are sure fire ways to end homelessness.  Passing "quality of life laws" are sure fire ways to prolong homelessness. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry