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A Dream Denied:
The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities


20 Meanest Cities

While most cities throughout the country have either laws or practices that criminalize homeless persons, some city practices or laws have stood out as more egregious than others in their attempt to criminalize homelessness.  The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty have chosen the following top 20 meanest cities in 2005 based on one or more of the following criteria: the number of anti-homeless laws in the city, the enforcement of those laws and severities of penalties, the general political climate toward homeless people in the city, local advocate support for the meanest designation, the city’s history of criminalization measures, and the existence of pending or recently enacted criminalization legislation in the city.  Although some of the report’s top 20 meanest cities have made some efforts to address homelessness in their communities, the punitive practices highlighted in the report impede true progress in solving the problem.

1.    Sarasota, FL
2.    Lawrence, KS
3.    Little Rock, AR
4.    Atlanta, GA
5.    Las Vegas, NV
6.    Dallas, TX
7.    Houston, TX
8.    San Juan, PR
9.    Santa Monica, CA
10.  Flagstaff, AZ
11.  San Francisco, CA
12.  Chicago, IL 
13.  San Antonio, TX
14.  New York City, NY
15.  Austin, TX
16.  Anchorage, AK
17.  Phoenix, AZ
18.  Los Angeles, CA           
19.  St. Louis, MO
20.  Pittsburgh, PA


HOME | FULL REPORT (pdf) | Acknowledgements | Executive Summary | I. Trends in the Criminalization of Homelessness | II. Criminalization Measures Violate Constitutional Rights | III. Criminalization Measures Violate Human Rights Norms | IV. Constructive Alternatives to Criminalization | V. T op 20 Meanest Cities | VI. Meanest Cities’ Narratives | VII. Other Cities’ Narratives | VIII. CASES: Challenges to Restrictions on Sleeping, Camping, Sitting or Storing Property in Public Place [FEDERAL] [STATE] | Challenges to Anti-Begging, Anti-Soliciting and Anti-Peddling Laws | Challenges to Vagrancy, Loitering and Curfew Laws | Challenges to Restrictions on Feedings | Miscellaneous | IX. Prohibited Conduct Chart | X. APPENDIX:Survey Questions | Sample Know Your Rights Card | Sources for City Narratives |