A Correction to the Criminalization of Homelessness


(RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Nowadays, it’s incarceration or the impossible standard of obtaining quick, often nonexistent, housing.

In fact, forget El Chapo, the man on the corner without a home could be the next big target for law enforcement.

The plight of the homeless is not a token situation and has expanded as litigations pile up to stop such actions as panhandling, camping, and sleeping in one’s own car.  In three years, there had already been an increase of 43 percent in the amount of laws criminalizing people for occupying areas open to the public.

This is not to say that all homeless people are always aligned with the law, but the degree of shaming and cultural ignorance towards this population has gone too far and caused an already hurting group to be further hindered from obtaining stability.

Not only do these laws further marginalize this group of extreme indigence, but more problems may arise from these legal processes, including the wasting of tax money—at the tune of $120 million in the Silicon Valley alone.

One group should not be pushed into a situation that could lead to their nonexistence for the sake of a more powerful administration that has lost hope in reform and is relying on force instead.

Therefore, to eradicate the problem of prosecuting the impoverished, emphasis must be placed on housing programs, government funding institutions must reiterate their positions against this ideology, the housing market must become more affordable, and political views must be remolded with stories of the humanity of the homeless so that the narrative surrounding the homeless is redefined at the base and further influences those implementing unconstitutional, binding, regulations.


(Mike Keefe/editorialcartoonists.com)

(I). Housing for All

It may sound too good to be true, but offering houses to the homeless may be the most efficient method of aiding them back into a more stable lifestyle.  Here, projects like Moore Place in Charlotte, North Carolina have gained considerable momentum among media due to studies that show the affordability and progress that these models are able to maintain.

In this particular example, Moore Place residents were able to save over $1.8 million in health care bills and were incarcerated at a rate of 78% less than before.  This information alone lends itself to many possibilities and promise as taxpayers and the homeless themselves are benefiting and are able to develop skills that they would have not been able to if they had continued living by the mercurial nature of the streets and crowded shelters.  With housing, the homeless no longer have to rely on public spaces for uneasy rest and are able to devote this energy to fulfilling job hunting or, perhaps, obtaining necessary rehabilitation help or health screenings.

Arguments against rapid rehousing plans may point towards the initial investment that the housing and staff adds on.  For those at Moore Place, a sizeable sum of $6 million was accumulated for construction and land accruement.  However, in comparison to the potential greater millions wasted, the price of the layout is justifiable.

Additionally, these housing programs may initially provide the houses, but beneficiaries must pay the rent when they have acquired a steady income and have begun to find themselves at a more financially capable state.

Other successful stories of housing and the homeless include Corvallis Housing First in Utah and similar set-ups in Europe—in each case, retention of housing was favorable.  Even so, not all cases are guaranteed to amend the lives of these chosen inhabitants.  Considerable attention to the tenants must be steady so that adjustments and counseling can provide for a smoother transition.  Without this, and sufficient funding to the initial project, failures may result, as in the case of the facilities in Budapest.


(“Housing First Success in Utah”/Corvallis Housing First)

With the appropriate planning, housing first campaigns can be both mentally and physically fortifying for the homeless population.

(II.) Financial Providers must Threaten Litigators with Retraction

At the same time, government officials banning certain actions by the homeless will likely not be swayed to alter their actions if they are not affected more intensely.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development—and other organizations like it—should reiterate and enforce their stance “that such laws violate the Constitution” so that it is made clear that funding will no longer be provided should criminalization continue to be enacted.

Without this grant money from the HUD, the states would have a deficit and would have to tax citizens more or otherwise allow the growth of homelessness to develop indefinitely.  Continuing this path of punishment for the least fortunate seems to lead to exacerbation of the initial problem that necessitated these harsher rulings and is becoming less reasonable when departments in charge of grants are supporting and receiving stimulus packages for housing expansions for the homeless.

If money is being offered to the HUD because of their willingness to try this innovative technique, then governments around the U.S. should take note.  Unfortunately, only about a quarter of the millions offered to the HUD were utilized at the time towards these programs, but the Congress’ revision of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act has since allowed more funds to be donated as grants to these housing organizations.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that those in charge of most of the money given to states for dealing with the homeless issue are being swayed toward these more fruitful initiatives, so the state and local governments have no choice but to follow the leader.

(III.) The Housing Market must be Reformed for all Economic Classes

A major reason that many became homeless in the first place began with the recent recession and the lack of a living wage that would allow for those with minimum wage jobs to pay for the accommodations that are available.  Families are especially prone to be evicted due to low income households having the most people to manage on top of a miniscule paycheck.

The end of the recession has not revitalized the market.  As of now, 50 percent of renters are now in homes that they cannot afford, and this presents major problems not only to them but also to governments like Texas, who use property taxes as sources of finance for schools and other public services.

Thus, lowering the prices of homes or providing more government subsidy and welfare will allow more citizens to participate in the economy while also reducing the homeless population so that criminalization will no longer be condoned for those that are not posing direct threats.

(IV.) Political Factions must Promote Equality and Truer Imagery

At the same time, there are oppositions to raising taxes and providing more government assistance among conservatives.  This is due to the belief that the providing of assistance is conducive to less ambition, which is much less significant in its effect than implied.

It is incorrect to assert that those in the deepest poverty are within this group simply because they are less willing to work for their futures—there are often major obstacles in their way that are much more surmountable than the average American, so it is difficult to truly understand why those within this group react to their troubles in the manner that they do.

rick perry.jpg

“Many homeless have chosen their lifestyle–not as a conscious lifestyle choice made in prior years of sobriety but through a series of decisions that not only led to their homelessness, but also perpetuate it.” The given quote by Rick Perry exemplifies the misconception of many.

Our comfort is futile and transient—we could be the next ones on the street—so we must not succumb to judgments that are only based on our luxuries.

Giving welfare to families on the verge of homelessness is necessary for prevention and will allow for the children to receive developmental advantages so that the cycle of poverty is no longer still spinning.

It must also be recognized that the homeless are not just a group that can be assumed to all act the same.  There seems to be a tendency to assume that all homeless members were placed into that position due to “bad choices…(and) society often provides responsibilities to punish ‘choices’ where choice is actually absent” so that homeless people are further stalled from any accomplishment.

The publication of more narratives written by homeless people will end the stereotypes around this group as the personal thoughts of a human in this gut-wrenching situation will be displayed for all to see and perhaps evaluated from a new perspective.

 (V.) Conclusion

It is difficult to erase and amend the history of discrimination against homeless people, but the modern political environment offers a catalyst for major change.

The prosecution of populations that are less fortunate is not only detrimental to the health of thousands, but the quality of the economy will never truly recover if faced with an irrepressible surge of homelessness, which is not simply avoided by more strict regulations.  Instead, law enforcement may lessen their load by following rapid rehousing projects; heeding the warnings of funding programs that declare that they will not allow the same benefits for states that continue to use these unconstitutional practices; aiding in protests for the downsizing of the real estate and renter property price ranges; and influencing major political groups’ ideas so as to revolutionize and help the most destitute garner the same degree of opportunity and fair representation provided to the highest classes.

To carry out this plan, citizens around the country must act.  Now is the time to get involved in exercising our constitutional right to vote so that the next elected officials are more attuned to the wishes of the people and are eager to begin revision of these mandates.

 So vote. Keep those handcuffs cold.


Works Cited

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OnTheIssues.org. Rick Perry on Welfare & Poverty. n.d. Web. 8 May 2016. <http://www.ontheissues.org/2012/Rick_Perry_Welfare_+_Poverty.htm&gt;.

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—. Local Officials have Pushed to Criminalize Homelessness for Years. The Feds are Starting to Push Back. 18 August 2015. 3 April 2016. <http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2015/08/18/3692251/homelessness-criminalization-doj-usich-hud/&gt;.

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