Ordinances Targeting the Homeless
Anti-Homeless Municipal Ordinances
Municipal Ordinances Targeting the Homeless
City Ordinances regulating access to public space, regulating the range of people who may enjoy such access and determining how they shall enjoy said space have a long history in the United States of America. The enforcement of said ordinances is often not uniform. In fact, many have deemed enforcement of ordiannces such as those against panhandling as discriminatory, in practice, and in some cases said enforcement represents substantial intrusion upon the First Amendment right to free speech of the citizenry. Ordinances against panhandling or aggressive solicitation, loitering, disorderly conduct, camping and congregating in public are some of the more common types of ordinance which disproportionately impact the homeless in the United States.
On June 4, 1987, in response to repeated complaints from neighborhood businesses and residents, forty Los Angeles police officers swept through the city's skid row areas to remove homeless individuals from the streets.2 Hundreds of homeless people were forced to abandon their makeshift shelters because they were violating a previously unenforced ordinance prohibiting sleeping on a street, sidewalk, or other public way. The police tossed personal possessions into the street and threatened to arrest those homeless people who refused to move or accept housing vouchers. Many cities have ordinances that similarly prohibit sleeping in certain public areas.5 Indeed, many municipalities, including Dallas, Texas6 and St. Petersburg, Florida, have recently adopted or begun vigorously enforcing broadly written ordinances that prohibit outdoor sleeping in all public areas. For instance, in Santa Barbara, California, police officers enforcing a city ordinance prohibiting public sleeping9wrote over 1,000 citations during 1985 and the first half of 1986.
Over the past two decades, municipal governments across the United States have adopted novel social control techniques including off-limits orders, parks exclusion laws, and other applications of trespass law. These new tools are used to exclude the socially marginal from contested public spaces. These new social control techniques fuse criminal and civil legal authority and are touted as ‘alternatives’ to arrest and incarceration. Ironically, these new techniques nonetheless increase the number of behaviors and people defined as criminal and subject to formal social control. This article describes these legal innovations and considers their origins and theoretical implications. We argue that recognition of law’s constitutive effects helps to explain the origins and nature of the urban social control innovations described here.
Bella, Christine L., and David L. Lopez. "Quality of Life--At What Price? Constitutional Challenges to Laws Adversely Impacting the Homeless." Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development 10.1 (2012): 6.
Communities nationwide are rethinking their approach to combating crime. Citizens overwhelmed by crime have demanded that the federal government assist them in their struggle to reclaim city streets and neighborhoods.2 In response to the public's outcry, Congress reacted with legislation including the federal crime bill and gun control laws. Citizens hope federal legislation will benefit their neighborhoods by providing safer streets, parks, schools, and a greater police presence. These federal endeavors bolster community efforts to combat crime by providing funding for, and emphasizing the enforcement of, laws on the local level. The public's call for ways to halt the ever-increasing cycle of social disorder has spurred a recent resurgence in "quality-of-life" laws.v Politicians and lawmakers center their campaigns around promises of law enforcement programs intended to attack quality of- life violations. These efforts have ranged from the enforcement of noncontroversial ordinances regulating such conduct as littering and excessive noisemaking, to regulations that essentially "criminalize" the often involuntary state of homelessness.
The efficacy of sex offender residence restriction laws in enhancing public safety is controversial and further complicated by evidence that adverse collateral effects may negate or even outweigh whatever benefits they achieve. Based on the theory of ‘‘distance decay’’ that postulates that offenders are more likely to recidivate closer to home, the statutes seek to distance offenders from potential child victims. However, to the extent that such statutes preclude residence in large portions of covered jurisdictions, it has been argued that they contribute to social instability, relegation of offenders to rural or undesirable locations, and even homelessness. A small number of studies have demonstrated the impact of restrictions on residential availability and compliance with the laws, but methodologic issues make it difficult to compare findings
Casper-Futterman, Evan. "The Operation was Successful but the Patient Died: The Politics of Crisis and Homelessness in Post-Katrina New Orleans." (2011) University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. Paper 1368.
I arrived in New Orleans on June 21st, 2007. I spent my first two nights in a gutted house in the Lower 9th ward in which flying cockroaches outnumbered volunteers by a factor of around 5:1. I was then provided the respite of a vacant FEMA trailer. After one night of inhaling the noxious fumes, I was luckily transferred to a series of closets and cabinets for the six months of my term as a volunteer. I mention this because it helps explain why on July 4th, 2007 I made the (otherwise inexplicable) decision to sleep outdoors on a concrete gazebo with several people I had known for less than two weeks: the alternatives were not much more inviting. The night that I spent in the Duncan Plaza gazebo began a transformative period for me. Through my involvement with Homeless Pride and the Duncan Plaza encampment over the next six months, I met people who continue to be among my closest friends and colleagues in New Orleans: Endesha Juakali, Luisa Dantas, Micheal Boedigheimer, and Lydia Pelot-Hobbs.
Everything that is done has to be done somewhere. This truism holds special meaning for the homeless, who lack private property on which to conduct certain necessities of life such as sleeping, and instead must engage in these activities on public lands. Unfortunately, recent trends in criminalizing homelessness have left these individuals with no place to conduct their daily activities without fear of persecution and abuse. Many of the new ordinances result in the forced migration of the homeless, and are proliferating with virus-like speed as cities attempt to divert those displaced by other towns from their communities. As a result, many homeless individuals are left with no option but to risk imprisonment while carrying out the daily activities necessary for their survival. Anti-homeless ordinances take many different forms. Some ban sleeping or camping on public lands, while others restrict the ability of the homeless to solicit donations or occupy sidewalks in urban centers. Certain cities have even criminalized attempts by charitable organizations to house and clothe the homeless. In addition to imposing civil fines for transgressions, these ordinances commonly permit criminal penalties such as incarceration for up to six months. Opponents have repeatedly challenged the constitutionality of these measures in courts across the United States. However, despite occasional opinions favoring the minority, the prevailing mood on the part of the judiciary appears to be one of indifference to the homeless’ plight; judges choose not to find anti-homeless ordinances unconstitutional when such a finding would be well within their discretion.
Collins, Damian, and Nicholas Blomley. "Private needs and public space: Politics, poverty and anti-panhandling by-laws in Canadian cities." New perspectives on the public–private divide (2003): 40-67.
Panhandling – the act of begging for money and other things of value – closely resembles an economic or “market” activity of the sort that has occupied the heart of the private realm within much liberal thought. It shares many of the characteristics of commercial advertising, requests for charitable donations, and street theatre.1 Yet, in the context of Canadian cities, this act has increasingly become subject to prohibitive public regulation in the form of by-laws restricting when, where, and how it can occur. This essay asks why such regulation is occurring. The widespread adoption of anti-panhandling by-laws can be interpreted as part of the purification of public space in North America – a trend that has entailed the removal of the poor and homeless from public view. In the United States, municipal regulations outlawing camping, sleeping, begging, sitting, and “loitering” in public space have proliferated. In Canada, citylawmakers and the representatives of local capital have focused on circumscribing panhandling and the behaviour of “squeegee kids.”
Delmonico, Darryl C., "Aggressive Panhandling Legislation and the Constitution: Evisceration of Fundamental Rights-—Or Valid Restrictions Upon Offensive Conduct?." Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Vol 23:557, Winter, 1996
In September of 2004, a group of local business owners and professionals in Nashville, Tennessee, together with the Nashville Downtown Partnership, a local downtown improvement organization, submitted a plan to the Metro Council that proposed making it illegal to panhandle in the busiest areas of the city. Advocates of the proposed legislation argued that panhandlers “harass tourists and customers and make the city less appealing.” Opponents viewed the proposal as nothing more than an attempt to force the homeless out of the city. The Nashville plan is patterned after the measures that several major American cities—including Philadelphia, Denver, and Seattle—have adopted in an attempt to deal with the epidemic of homelessness that has swept the nation in recent years.
This Article examines the role of lawyers for homeless people. It argues that while even the most zealous legal advocacy cannot alone solve homelessness, it remains an important tool because of the assistance it provides to individuals, its impact on broader legal rules, and its potential role in shaping public perception and debate. The Article also maintains that legal advocacy works best when combined with a holistic approach that addresses homeless clients' non-legal needs, such as housing placement, case management, medical and psychiatric care, job training, and substance abuse counseling. It further argues that, to the extent possible, lawyers for homeless people should focus their efforts and resources around those areas that research and experience have identified as the leading causes of homelessness and the most open to solutions.
The central question of this thesis, as the title indicates, is to question the changing meaning of public space. But, it also about measuring the constitutive role of regulations embedded in the property of public space in the functioning of marginal groups. I believe that the former is connected to the latter. The people whose rights are adversely affected by regulations around public property are marginal groups (homeless, day laborers, etc.). The changes in urban planning practices that expand the opportunities and functioning of marginal groups can thus be one of the major forces in reducing the systematic deprivation of these groups. Through the case of Homeless “Agency” and Day labor “Agency,” I will examine the evidence that exemplifies cooperative approach of organization in public space rather than coercive.
As the nation continues to experience unprecedented economic growth, the unemployment rate sits at the lowest level in thirty years, and the stock market remains at a record level, 750,000 people are homeless each night. At any given time, at least 230,000 people use shelters and soup kitchens. Low-wage income earners are increasingly "being priced out of the housing market as rents rise." For every one hundred households at or below thirty percent of the average household's median income, there were only thirty-sLx units both affordable and available for rent. In the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, this scenario is no different. While the city's economy" and reputation'2 continue to improve, the impoverished of the city remain in dire straits. Approximately 351,000 Philadelphians, a number larger than the total population of Pittsburgh, live under the federal poverty level." On any single night in October 1999, more than 350 people slept on the city's streets between midnight and 4 a.m., and "[t]hat doesn't include all areas of the city or abandoned buildings." This situation has created tension between businesses and the homeless in the could not meet twenty-six percent of requests for emergency shelter in 199S.
One of the enduring tensions in law enforcement is between the need to keep public areas clear of annoying, unnerving, and potentially dangerous people and the right to gather, converse, and idle. Attempts to resolve this tension have often taken the form of "street sweeping" statutes-loitering and vagrancy laws that prohibit certain behavior that falls short of traditional criminal conduct. Although these statutes were and are common, attempts to enforce them occasionally founder, as courts are prone to find the most extreme of these laws unconstitutionally vague.' Recently the City of Chicago thought it had struck a proper balance between being specific about the prohibited behavior while still giving the police enough discretion to handle the problem. In 1992 it passed an ordinance prohibiting "criminal street gang members" from "loitering" (defined as "remain[ing] in any one place for no apparent purpose") in public with each other or with non-gang members. If a police officer observed gang members loitering, she had the authority to order the group to disperse and the individuals to remove themselves from the area." Failure to follow the officer's command was an arrestable offense, for which the offender could be fined, imprisoned for up to six months, and required to perform community service.3 In an effort to further narrow the ordinance's reach, the police department developed guidelines to limit officers' enforcement discretion. Under the guidelines, only police officerswho specialized in gang activity could order the dispersal, and criteria were developed to help define what was meant by a "criminal street gang." The ordinance also was to be enforced only in certain areas, where the presence of gangs had a demonstrated effect on the quality of the neighborhood.
The First Amendment, ratified in 1791, proscribes the government from "abridging the freedom of speech" of its citizens.1 The interpretation of that simple phrase spans thousands of pages. The United States Supreme Court, the ultimate arbiter of the meaning of the clause hi its myriad applications, has created various categories of speech and has assessed the constitutionality of government regulations of speech in the context of the category within which a particular type of speech falls. The closer the speech is to the core of the First Amendment's purpose, that is, to empower citizens to speak freely on political and social issues, then the greater is the degree of judicial scrutiny that must be applied to the regulation.
San Franciscans in the 2010 election voted for Proposition L, the Sit/Lie Ordinance, which prohibits sitting or lying on sidewalks citywide from 7am to 11pm. This thesis will study the consequences of the new law. Considered having one of the largest homeless populations in the country, San Francisco recently adopted the law which is widely seen as anti-homeless. The author is interested in how the homeless and various community-based organizations that have long advocated for the rights of the homeless respond to the measure. This is an important issue, not only in San Francisco but many other cities in the U.S., as it defines who the “public” is in public space. This study aims to use empirical research to answer the question of how the right to the city is contested in the use of public space by the homeless. This paper hypothesizes that the homeless and their advocates continue to resist the ordinance and try different ways to reclaim their use of public space since public space is a dynamic – rather than fixed – venue open for struggles.
Since 2006 approximately 60 municipalities across the United States have either proposed and/or enacted a city ordinance known as the Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA). This policy trend is the focus of my dissertation. The IIRA penalizes employers and landlords who hire or rent to unauthorized-immigrants. Ordinance proponents admit the objective is to drive-out “illegal aliens.” Ultimately, the Illegal Immigration Relief Act mainly targets Caribbean, Central American, South American and Mexican immigrant communities, criminalizing their survival, by annihilating access to the public and private spaces necessary to survive. The IIRA is one powerful local policy mechanism used to territorialize space, segregate communities, and create boundaries of belonging.
Constitutional doctrines have life cycles. They are born of practical need, flourish in an atmosphere of general utility, and decline as changing conditions drain them of their vitality. When the contradiction between a doctrine and social necessity finally becomes too intense to be endured, the doctrine expires-sometimes peacefully, sometimes convulsively-and is superseded by another doctrine that is fated to enjoy the same career.
Our purpose in this article is to anticipate the imminent death of certain prominent doctrines of criminal procedure. These doctrines-in particular, the constitutional standards used to evaluate discretionary community policing- have outlived their utility. It's now time to construct a new criminal procedure, one uniquely fitted to the conditions that currently characterize American social and political life and that are likely to characterize it into the foreseeable future.
“Globalization” is a powerful ideology. The popular media are enthralled with the idea. Space, it seems from reading the papers and watching the news, has simply ceased to exist. [. . .] Yet as a number of geographers have shown [. . .] globalization is in fact not predicated on the “annihilation of space by time,” no matter how evocative that metaphor may be, but rather on the constant production and reproduction of certain kinds of spaces. For capital to be free, it must also be fixed in place. [. . .] Not just at the global scale, but in all the locations that capital does business, perpetual attempts to stave of crisis by speeding up the circulation of capital lead to a constant reconfiguration of productive relations (and productive spaces). Together these trends –toward rapid turnover, and toward the concomitant appearance of globalization – create a great deal of instability for those whose investments lie in fixed capital, especially the fixed capital of the built environment. While capital could never exist without some degree of fixity – in machines and buildings, in roads and parks – the very unevenness of capital mobility lends to places an increasing degree of uncertainty.
The current study is an analysis of the problem of homelessness in Americansociety today. It focuses on the demographic characteristics of the homeless in addition to some of the contributing factors that explain homelessness. Of particular concern is how the criminal justice system responds to homelessness, including the criminalization and stigmatization of homeless individuals and the implications of such a response. The data used in this study come from a recent survey conducted in a jail setting in a northwest city. The present study compares those who have been homeless at one time or another and those who have never been homeless. More specifically, this study explores the relationship between homelessness, incarceration, prior criminal history, employment and other important factors that may increase the likelihood receiving a jail sentence and the severity of that sentence.
Our goal is to find out how we can implement a parking lot for homeless people here in Central New Jersey where they can feel safe and secure while in their cars sleeping at night. We realized that cars are the only thing some people have left besides their pride and maybe their employment. However, with their employment, they cannot possibly afford housing on their own without some assistance. Some of these homeless people probably only get paid minimum wage, and they cannot live comfortably on that salary. They usually have a gym membership where they can drive in the morning or at night to bathe and shower. The car parks are our solution to this homelessness situation and we did the best we can to lend a helping hand to those in need.
The guide begins by describing the panhandling problem and reviewing factors that contribute to it. It then identifies a series of questions that might help you in analyzing your local problem. Finally, it reviews responses to the problem, and what is known about those responses from evaluative research and police practice. Generally, there are two types of panhandling: passive and aggressive. Passive panhandling is soliciting without threat or menace, often without any words exchanged at all—just a cup or a hand held out. Aggressive panhandling is soliciting coercively, with actual or implied threats, or menacing actions. If a panhandler uses physical force or extremely aggressive actions, the panhandling may constitute robbery. Isolated incidents of passive panhandling are usually a low police priority.1 In many jurisdictions, panhandling is not even illegal. Even where it is illegal, police usually tolerate passive panhandling, for both legal and practical reasons.2 Courts in some jurisdictions have ruled that passive panhandling is constitutionally protected activity. Police can reasonably conclude that, absent citizen complaints, their time is better spent addressing more serious problems. Whether panhandling and other forms of street disorder cause or contribute to more serious crime—the broken windows thesis—is hotly debated, but the debate is as yet unsettled.3 Panhandling becomes a higher police priority when it becomes aggressive or so pervasive that its cumulative effect, even when done passively, is to make passersby apprehensive.4 Panhandling is of greater concern to merchants who worry that their customers will be discouraged from patronizing their business. Merchants are most likely to call police when panhandling disrupts their commerce
This progress report reviews recent research on the role that disorder plays in fostering democracy. Disorder can be a powerful tool in fostering democracy because it highlights the confl icts,the agonism, that are inherent democratic politics. More than a form of government or a set of outcomes, democracy can be conceptualized as a process through which agonism is expressed and action is taken. Yet agonism disrupts what seem to be settled relationships and practices, as new people, voices, and ideas enter the public sphere. Research in political geography has examined material and virtual spaces for public address in which groups struggle to expand, and in some cases reorder, democratic publics.
In the current economy, the issue of homelessness is increasingly pervading the normal constructs of society. Thousands of men, women, and children struggle to find a place to sleep and enough food to satisfy their hungry stomachs. While many people suffer under these conditions, local governments continue to create new anti-homeless legislation to further eject them out of society. Bans prevent the homeless from urinating, sleeping, camping, and panhandling in public through fines and prison sentences. The laws specifically target the homeless, discriminating against them for actions which are necessary for daily survival. The legal system only further hurts this already destitute population rather than alleviating the problem. Thus, this paper looks at the numerous reports and case studies that evaluate the current criminalizing efforts in order to offer alternative solutions to this social injustice. The accumulating effect of constant segregation and punishment results in a constant cycle of homelessness and the dehumanization of certain citizens. By reevaluating the current trend of criminalization, local governments can actually assist the homeless and provide life changing services rather than contribute to the discrimination. Handcuffing the homeless only exacerbates the social problem plaguing America.
Historically, public spaces have functioned as settings of public gathering, political demonstration, commercial exchange, socialization, and recreation. In the context of neo-liberalism, however, public spaces assume an additional role. As cities compete with each other toward economic growth, public spaces become important amenities. Safe, clean, and lively public spaces serve as catalysts for investment. Thus, cities, often in partnership with private corporations, have engaged in redeveloping public spaces in order to create desirable locations that may attract and retain residents and businesses that could be established virtually anywhere. However, the narrative of public spaces as tools for economic growth clashes with the reality of many individuals whose basic needs must be fulfilled in public spaces. Design, land use, management, and surveillance strategies adopted in redeveloped public spaces may hinder the homeless' ability to utilize public spaces for survival.