An ordinance called "Safety in Public Places"
passed in January of 2004. Under that law panhandling is banned in both
the downtown and the Nob Hill area during daytime as well as nighttime.
A total of 29 restrictions were placed on panhandlers. During the public
meeting when the ordinance was passed, Robert McGoey, homeless advocate,
said, "I believe the intention is not what they call public safety,
but to silence the poor, encourage police harassment, and sweep the
homeless out of downtown."
When the ordinance was originally proposed in October
of 2003, Sig Olson of Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless said
he did not believe such an ordinance was necessary because truly "aggressive"
panhandling would qualify as either assault or battery. However, some
service agencies were not so critical. Joy Junction, a homeless shelter,
released a press release in January 2004, in which its director, Jeremy
Reynolds, said he supported the ban and warned the public not to give
money to homeless people and not to give homeless people personal information.
As a result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the ACLU negotiated
the provisions of the ordinance with local attorney advocate Scott Cameron
of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and a revised law was passed
in May of 2004. The original panhandling law had been halted by a judges
order after the lawsuit was filed. Now, panhandling is banned after
dark in two main tourist areas, and police officers must first give
a warning and only cite individuals after a second incident occurs within
six months. "Passive" panhandling in the nighttime is allowed.
"Many ordinances are unfairly enforced. Enforcement
is intended to clear the streets and decrease the visibility of homeless
people," says Scott Cameron. The police target homeless people
at bus stops, check IDs and bags, and generally harass people. Cameron
believes these actions make it illegal to be on the streets. Business
and tourist interests are trying to "revitalize" downtown
and often blame much of the areas problems on homeless people.
There is a growing culture of fear amongst homeless people in the community,
which causes them to avoid public spaces because of susceptibility of
being harassed and targeted by law enforcement.
Homeless peoples belongings are regularly being
thrown away by police. For a couple of months police used a trailer
next to the jail that was assigned for belongings. Recently, however,
homeless people report incidents of having their belongings discarded.
The cycle of citations, warrants, and missed court dates keeps these
homeless people unstable and often in the criminal justice system.
Homeless advocates are working with the Westside police
command area in a positive step toward developing alternatives to this
cycle of arrest. In March of 2004, the Albuquerque Police Departments
Westside Area Command Captain, Conrad Candelaria, said he was working
to implement a plan called the 111 Coors POP (Problem Oriented Policing)
Plan in which several officers would heavily patrol areas in the West
Side for three days in late March. The officers would not necessarily
arrest the homeless persons they found, but would try to refer them
to service providers. Candelaria noted that law enforcement is not always
the final answer, and said, "For a long term solution, we need
to break the cycle. We need to make sure [the homeless] get the help
they need." However, he also stated the West Side was, "left
out of the picture," when Albuquerque passed its law targeting
aggressive panhandling in Nob Hill and Downtown, so the "problem"
was "transferred" to the West Side.
In December of 2003, Cameron defended a homeless veteran,
Hugh Shadoan, who fought a panhandling citation and won the case. The
man was passively holding a sign on a freeway off ramp that said, "Homeless
Vet. Help." He was arrested and charged with "obstructing
movement," but the judge dismissed the citation. Panhandling citations
are rarely if ever contested in Albuquerque, and the positive ruling
may be a landmark.
The Nob Hill area was the site of four violent incidents
between March and December 2003. The city closed several motels in months
prior to February 2004, in an attempt to push crime out of the [Nob
Hill and surrounding] area. Albuquerques "Community Enforcement
and Abatement Division" has implemented practices to crack down
on transients in the area [of Nob Hill] and hotels are now required
to perform criminal background checks on all guests.
In June of 2004, residents
near Ellwood Park began to express mixed feelings concerning homeless
persons living in the area. One woman had no problem with homeless people
as long as they "behave in a proper and decent manner." The
police have the capacity to cite people for public urination, littering,
and breaking the parks midnight curfew. Some residents are concerned
that homeless persons cannot be arrested simply for being in the park.
The park is located near social service providers and thus draws a number
of people during the day. Some residents have suggested fencing the
park to ease neighborhood worries at night, while others suggest that
the city look into finding solutions to homelessness instead of avoiding
Advocate Hilary Morgan reports that racial discrimination
is one of the most significant problems homeless people in Anchorage
face. Businesses have photographed and subsequently blacklisted people
who, they said, appeared homeless; most of these individuals being Alaskan
Natives. Subsequent media attention and advocates efforts have
put a stop to the racial and economic profiling.
A local liquor storeowner tore down and destroyed
several homeless encampments.
The downtown business district employs a group of
people who refer homeless people to service providers in the area, Morgan
In 2003, the city passed an anti-panhandling ordinance
introduced by West Anchorage Assemblyman Dan Sullivan, which made it
illegal for panhandlers to leave the curb and step into traffic. Sullivan
introduced his second anti-panhandling ordinance in July of 2004; this
ordinance bans "aggressive panhandling," where assembly members
unanimously approved the new ordinance. Becky Beck, executive director
of the Downtown Partnership, supports not only this new law as a control
of behavior, but also a program called "Change for the Better,"
in which the city would convince people that it is better to contribute
to nonprofit agencies than to panhandlers. Nonetheless, she says, "No
city [she knows] of has a great solution."
Philip Mangano, executive
director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, declared
at a press conference that instead of shifting the homeless population
around, communities "should reconsider the social infrastructure
that keeps people homeless." The City Council created a committee
to begin working on a plan with the majority representing local service
providers for social issues. Local businesses are encouraged to join
in to help generate ideas and motivate change.
According to the Asheville Homeless Network, Asheville
passed its current set of laws unfriendly to homeless people between
2002 and late spring, 2003. These include ordinances banning sleeping
on public property, panhandling, solicitation, and loitering.
ordinance has led police to target "The Willows," a well-known
homeless campsite. Police officers also reportedly stop homeless people
from using signs to solicit donations.
According to Lynne Griever of the Georgia Task Force for
the Homeless, though there are positive relationships among representatives
of the police, local government and homeless service providers through
the Northeast Georgia Homeless Coalition, there is a very heavy police
presence in Downtown Athens. Griever asserts many young people and homeless
folks no longer feel comfortable there.
Mary OToole, Director of the Northeast Georgia Coalition,
reports that downtown police, merchants and homeless advocates came
together in February of 2003 in support of converting parking meters
into coin depositories. A policeman who knew about a similar effort
in Nashville suggested the program. The money is directed towards public
services funded through the coalition. OToole believes that the
accompanying information and education have sensitized the community.
An Athens- Clarke County police officer reports the hope that the parking
meters will curb "aggressive panhandling."
A homeless resident said that she thought that the city
should take the signs down because she is concerned that the signs might
give Athens residents the wrong message about panhandlers. She said
that people should decide for themselves whether or not to give to panhandlers.
However, she is glad that the city is not pursuing a plan of criminalization
and says that she will continue to panhandle. She said that she frequently
asks for money to get food, while other homeless people stressed the
need to panhandle for survival.
"The signs seem to make using the meter the responsible
thing to do," Griever stated. "The signs imply that people
who say they need help right away are lying. Granted, some may be lying,
and some may not even be homeless, at all, but it just seems cold and
totally disassociates the need from the response."
City, New Jersey
People experiencing homelessness are given citations for
drunkenness and aggressive panhandling but are not usually incarcerated.
Sweeps are conducted a few times a week, but officers are careful not
to harass homeless people, according to Bill Southrey of the Atlantic
City Rescue Mission. These sweeps usually occur around the Boardwalk,
Pacific Avenue, and Atlantic Avenue. New Jersey participates in what
Southrey describes as "Greyhound Therapy," where various other
counties such as Ocean County, Camden County, and Cumberland County
bus homeless people to Atlantic City. The Atlantic City community is
not completely accepting, but not hostile, either.
According to Georgia Task Forces Lynne Griever,
there are not many homeless people visible in downtown Augusta. Many
folks show up for the meal at Sacred Heart Church or for a bed at the
Salvation Army in the evening. Mercy Ministries has opened a Day Service
Center outside of the downtown area. Otherwise, the downtown area appears
to be without a "visible" homeless problem.
Major Weaver at the Augusta Police Department says
there are very few arrests of homeless people. He says arrests are a
last resort and hed like to be able to educate police officers
to the services available to those down on their luck so the police
can better serve the needs of those on the streets.
Maria Beard, who works at the Augusta Task Force
for the Homeless, says the police have brought many folks to the Task
Force for assistance rather than put them in jail.
Griever reports that until May of 2003 homeless people
could enjoy the downtown park. Since last May, however, ordinances prohibiting
activities such as loitering, panhandling, vagrancy, and other routine
activities, have been strictly enforced. Now, it is illegal to rest
in the park after lunch or until the evening meal is served.
Initially, Maria Beard reported, clients were outraged
and tried to fight the whole situation. Shortly after though, everyone
just did what was necessary to stay out of jail, which was to go away
from the downtown area. The police have cleared out campsites that have
been there for years. "They reappear," Major Weaver states,
"so we just have to go back periodically and clean it up again."
"I wish that I could see a little more compassion,"
Beard said. "These people are having a hard time, and they just
need help right now."
Major Weaver, who reminded us that he did not make the
rules, wants to help, but will have to do that within the constraints
of laws that make it illegal for the homeless to be downtown.
In August of 2004, the City of Avondale demolished a blighted
41-condo development that was found to be unsafe because of "60
percent deterioration in its masonry, floors, frames, plaster and glazing."
Some community members were happy with the removal of the building,
and one resident said that it was a "fresh start for the community."
However, there is mention that a group of six homeless people lived
in the building and no information of whether or not the former residents
were given adequate shelter or relocation assistance.
Two homeless men who lived in the property for months
said if the builders "had a permit, none of this would have happened."
International Square Park in Bakersfield was demolished
in January of 2004, and the homeless people who once gathered there
scattered to other parks around the city. Councilwoman Sue Benham proposed
the park be demolished because it was a setting for illegal activity,
and maintenance costs were too high. No additional services or affordable
housing were offered in compensation for the destruction of the park.
Downtown business owners, including the Downtown Partnership
of Baltimore Inc., a "quasi-city agency," and its offshoot,
the "Baltimore Safe Street Coalition," which was started in
January, 2004, pushed a law to make it illegal for homeless people to
sleep on downtown sidewalks. The group suggested it would hire its own
"outreach teams" to deal with violators of the [proposed]
law. Some community groups opposed the proposition because they feared
it would drive homeless people into their neighborhoods, and advocates
feared that it would criminalize homelessness. Councilman Robert Curran
said the measure could cause "displaced homelessness." The
Baltimore City Council said in April of 2004 that it would "kill"
the "hotly contested proposal." City Councilman Robert Curran
said, "the sidewalk law will have a respectable death in committee."
Jeff Singer, president of Health Care for the Homeless, said, "the
bill wouldnt have solved any of the underlying problems that cause
homelessness." A representative of the Downtown Partnership of
Baltimore reported in August of 2004 that there were no plans to promote
the initiative in the future and they have recently hired a new staff
member to look into issues of homelessness, mental health, and substance
Panhandlers can be fined up to $100 if they panhandle
in the city between dawn and dusk, according to a law passed in late
April of 2004. The city has forbidden "aggressive panhandling"
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) had agreements
with several police agencies that allowed officers to exclude panhandlers
from ODOT property. At least 84 individuals had been "excluded
for life" from ODOT property. Recently, two panhandlers, who were
banned from Oregon highway ramps, settled a federal civil rights suit
with the City of Beaverton and ODOT to the tune of $1000 apiece. While
the settlement prohibits police officers from banning people from ODOT
property, they still have the authority to give tickets for what is
called an "unlawful position" with a possible $75 fine.
The reported number of homeless people in Billings
doubled between 2001 and 2003, and some business owners and security
guards say that panhandling and "aggression" have increased.
Social service programs to help homeless people and others have been
cut in past years. Some homeless people say if their panhandling has
become more intense, it is because of the increased severity of mistreatment.
One homeless man who began to cry said, "I get harassed because
of the color of my skin and the way I dress." He had been beaten
by a group of teens earlier in the week. In the fall of 2003, police
pushed for ordinances banning panhandling and loitering, but fortunately
these ordinances were "derailed."
In May of 2004, it was reported that some business owners
were concerned with the presence of the Empire Bar, which, they said,
attracts homeless people. The city, however, was not making moves to
criminalize these people. State laws prohibit Billings from enforcing
vagrancy ordinances, and there is no law against public drunkenness
in the city. Billings City Administrator Kristoff Bauer said new laws
might not be the solution to the problem: "This is a societal problem.
It takes the community to fix it. Its not a problem, I think,
you can just look to the city to address through police or other activities."
In October of 2003, Bauer had reported that the local jail was overcrowded.
A Birmingham city councilman withdrew his proposal
in October of 2003 to prohibit sleeping in the doorways of buildings
between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Homeless advocates decried the proposal, saying
that it unfairly targeted homeless people. "That seems to be morally
wrong," said Steve Freeman, executive director of the Old Firehouse
Shelter in Birmingham. "Its going to make it difficult for
someone who is arrested and homeless on the street; now theyre
going to have a record. Its going to make it harder for them to
get housing, harder to get employment."
Elias Hendricks, the councilman who introduced the
bill, defended its intent. "Its not about homeless people,"
Hendricks said. "This is about improper behavior. We are having
a real problem, not just downtown, but all over. The police have no
power to tell people to move on. It doesnt matter whether youre
homeless or not, but if youre sleeping in a public place you need
to get up and get out of there."
As in other American cities, the lack of public restrooms
in Boston sets up a situation where homeless people are routinely harassed,
ticketed, and arrested, says Rufus Goodwin. Public urination is considered
a sexual offense. Loitering, trespassing, and littering charges are
also used to target "undesirables," Goodwin states. Major
sweeps were predicted prior to the Democratic National Convention in
July of 2004.
The city is adamant it did not conduct sweeps leading
up to or during the Convention and they did not move homeless people.
However, many homeless people appear to have relocated during that time.
The citys efforts were instead directed at informing the homeless
people they would be allowed to stay at shelters during daytime hours,
and encouraging them to do so to avoid the crowd. A director of a local
church was quoted as saying, "No matter how gentle the touch, the
idea was to sanitize the area, and they succeeded just as theyve
done everywhere else where theyve had these events." Homeless
people reported in several news articles that personal donations from
delegates were scant.
Maureen Feeney, City Councilor, announced in August
she will hold a hearing on whether or not to ban aggressive panhandling
and may subsequently introduce the issue to the Council. She says this
is in response to an increasing number of people who stand in the middle
of streets and ask people in stopped cars for donations.
A February 2003, panhandling ordinance has
led to aggressive enforcement, which has in turn pushed homeless people
out of some areas of town. Authorities issue citations for panhandling
and trespassing on a regular basis.
In July of 2004, it was reported that 14th
Street West in Bradenton has been "changing" because of a
"crackdown by Bradenton police in the past few years." A January
2004, article reports that the city has been trying to "clean up"
the area. However, a local business owner reports, "a big problem
remains," complaining about, among other things, the homeless,
calling them "vagrants," and claiming, "people sleep
on the sidewalks of your property." Business owners are also concerned
with prostitution and drug use in the area. The city reportedly made
a nearby service provider, Our Daily Bread, reduce the size of its new
building in 2003, as a part of the push to "clean up" the
The city council tabled a proposed "No Camping"
ordinance in January of 2004 for an indefinite time to allow the City
to explore possible housing and mental health treatment options, and
because of nearly two hours of testimony against it. The ordinance would
have banned sleeping outside between sunset and sunrise without the
permission of property owners. Violators could have been fined $500
and sentenced to up to 60 days in jail. No action had been taken as
of August 2004, according to city officials. If the law had passed,
the city might have been forced to provide housing for homeless people,
in accordance with the landmark1988 Pottinger Case originating from
Miami and limiting the displacement of homeless people in Florida if
there is no other place for them to be relocated to.
Manatee County is home to approximately 2,000 homeless
residents. There is one shelter in Manatee County, with 144 beds, which
offers a specified amount of free time, after which homeless persons
must pay a fee of $8 per night and show proof that they are in the process
of obtaining employment.
"The largest civil rights violation homeless
people face is housing discrimination," said local advocate Bill
OConnell. Many of the people experiencing homelessness in Buffalo
find housing in vacant buildings, so there is little visibility of the
issue and thus little public resistance.
There is significant harassment for camping, public urination,
and presence in the Greyhound station, advocate Kelly Bobbitt reports.
She reported the businesses in the area sometimes harass, and yet, at
other times are extremely helpful to homeless people.
According to advocate Gayle Smith, homeless people
found panhandling or sleeping outside are not usually arrested for the
first, second, or third offenses. After three or more warnings though,
persons can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Smith is frustrated that police ignore the drug activity
close to her shelter because it has a negative impact on the low-income
People are asked to move along in sweeps of the downtown
stores and tourist areas. Local advocates hope to implement awareness
training for police in the future, especially about methods for treating
the mentally ill.
Charlotte has enacted a ban on aggressive panhandling,
redesigning a previous law that limited nighttime panhandling, interactions
with persons being solicited, and the area in which panhandlers can
solicit. Reports indicate that police officers increased enforcement
of the ban in late 2003. A local columnist said, "This is an issue
because panhandling makes those of us who are fortunate enough to attend
plays and eat at restaurants uptown uncomfortable." The columnist
also noted that in past months and years, the city has moved soup kitchens
out of downtown and installed dividers on benches, in addition to "stepping
up the enforcement of the ban on aggressive panhandling."
Virginia Sellner reports that there is not a problem
of criminalization of homelessness in Cheyenne and that she hopes that
such a trend never emerges in the future. She comments that possibly
"some cop in some little town" is committing abuses of the
law, but she has not come across those problems. She reports that there
are no laws against panhandling, and that panhandlers are generally
only asked to move if they are impeding a roadway and putting themselves
or others in danger. She also reports that there has been a community
service officer working in the Cheyenne Police Department whose primary
function seems to be helping to resolve disputes and acting as a point
of communication between non-homeless people, people without homes,
and the police. She says that while some homeless people have talked
about being targeted during "Frontier Week," she does not
think this either occurs frequently or is a serious problem.
In January of 2004, the City of Chicago tentatively
agreed to pay $99,000 to people who were arrested or fined for panhandling,
as well as $375,000 to the lawyers who represent them. About 5,000 people
are entitled to a share of the settlement. Those who were arrested may
file a claim for $400; those who were ticketed may file a claim for
$50. Although the law involved in the settlement was enacted in 1991,
under the statute of limitations, only those arrested or ticketed after
Sept. 6, 1999 were eligible for payment.
In September of 2004, the City Council passed a law
aimed at deterring aggressive panhandling. The ordinance states asking
for money would no longer be permitted within 10 feet of a bus shelter,
CTA bus stop, ATM machine or entrance to a bank or currency exchange;
in any public transit vehicle or station or at a sidewalk café,
restaurant or gas station. The ordinance also bans panhandling "in
any manner that a reasonable person would find intimidating," including
touching someone, blocking an individuals path or using profane
or abusive language." Violators could be fined $50 for first and
second offenses, and $100 for subsequent violations.
Police have been harassing homeless people, reported
Richard Hruska, in January of 2004. Police checked homeless peoples
identifications and repeatedly asked them questions without obvious
The City of Cleveland had assigned a liaison to the homeless
community by the Cleveland Police. During recent budget cuts this officer
was transferred. During this time without a liaison things began to
slide back, and advocate Brian Davis reports increased enforcement for
an ordinance against feeding the pigeons in Public Square, which naturally
targets homeless individuals. Disorderly conduct rules have also been
broadly applied towards people experiencing homelessness as well. The
liaison was reappointed in mid 2004, and tensions have calmed in the
downtown between police and homeless people. Outreach efforts were also
cut back by the mental health community because of budget cuts.
Off-duty police officers hired as private security officers
present a large civil rights threat to the homeless community, states
Davis. Police officers know and respect the consent decree saying all
people, including homeless people, can use the sidewalks in the city
without fear of arrest for innocent behavior like standing, sitting,
sleeping or eating on the sidewalk. However, off-duty officers who are
employed in uniform as security officers often ignore this decree, resulting
The guaranteed access to shelter provided to men and
women was disrupted by budget cuts, but was reinstated in early 2004.
The Ohio Department of Transportation signed an agreement
that the homeless coalition that will give a two-week notice to homeless
encampments under freeway overpasses on all sweeps so that outreach
teams can help to relocate the homeless individualsa positive
There was a continued onslaught of opposition to locating
homeless programs in certain neighborhoods of Cleveland. There is an
on-going dispute about certain neighborhoods disproportionately addressing
the shelter and food needs of homeless people. This has made it difficult
to locate affordable housing, social service programs that serve homeless
people. There were many public meetings, letters to the editor, and
public demonstrations of repugnance and the distribution of myths about
homelessness over the last year.
Vigorous enforcement of a recent aggressive panhandling
ban has really discouraged all panhandling, reported advocate
Steve Handon. There is a heavy police presence in the parks and the
downtown areas that homeless people frequently visit. Police and city
employees conduct regular sweeps under bridges and in encampments every
two to three months. Though there is usually a warning a day or two
before, authorities throw away all remaining belongings. Handon stated
that police seem to target homeless people who are not in shelters more
frequently than those who are. All of these efforts, Handon noted, are
really part of a larger effort to reduce the visibility of homeless
people in this tourist community. In his opinion, the main motivation
is to ensure that those who eat at a local soup kitchen do not interfere
with the planned revitalization of downtown.
Kent Beittel of the Open Shelter reported the shelters
closing. The shelter served 1,331 people during the course of the year,
but the city owns the building and declared the shelter is not needed.
Beittel says the shelter was full, and every time a bed was open, many
more applied for the vacancy. On July 1, 2004, the shelter closed its
doors, but is expanding its outreach services and searching for a new
site. With the closing of the Open Shelter, considered a more tolerant
facility than most others, there are concerns whether many of its former
residents will be able to adjust to the more stringent policies in other
shelters. The concern is a number of individuals may be forced to stay
outside if they do not make the transition. The city has bulldozed camps
and eliminated existing communities under the freeways in Columbus,
making it extremely difficult to survive outdoors.
The city uses ordinances dating from the 1950s through
the mid-1990s concerning loitering and panhandling. Downtown signs read,
"Dont give to panhandlers," and some "Downtown Ambassadors"
even carry the message on sandwich boards. Would-be donors, thus, are
intimidated into avoiding panhandlers.
The city had promised developers of some newly erected
condominiums an unobstructed view for their residents overlooking the
river and the city, therefore, several encampments of homeless people
who live on these public lands were cleared.
Local business owners made agreements with the police
in May of 2004, to crack down on trespassers and "vagrants"
in front of their stores. Police officials report that officers involved
in enforcing these agreements typically issue warnings before making
arrests. The agreements were developed in response to an increase in
complaints from businesses to the city government. The businesses also
began hanging no-trespassing signs in front of their buildings.
In October of 2003, the 14th annual Sleep-Out
for the Homeless was denied a camping permit for their awareness-raising
event in Goebel Park. The permit was denied under a July 2002 law banning
camping in Covington parks and along riverbanks. Activists coordinating
the event noted that re-enactors of the Lewis and Clark journey were
awarded a similar permit for three nights a week before the protest
camp permit was denied. The activists moved to camp at a federal building
Five homeless people, whose encampment had been removed
in 2002 by city authorities, won a settlement worth $1,000 each in December
of 2003. Jay Fossett, attorney for the city, stated that "theres
no admission of wrongdoing, and I can tell you that the primary reason
for settling it was an economic reason."
Advocate Kate Ridge reports local advocates and the
Chamber of Commerce formed a "Homeless Project Team" to better
address how the businesses and the tourist areas could be sensitized
towards the homeless community.
One week before the city's November, 2003, sweep of
Vietnam Veteran Park, where twenty to thirty homeless people were staying,
city officials and a homeless outreach team talked with several of the
homeless people who were staying there, and notices of the upcoming
sweep were posted. The next week, city officials, including a city planner,
were present as city workers cut down the trees at the site, put everyone's
unclaimed belongings in large trash bags, threw them in a dump truck
and bulldozed the area. Daytons deputy director of community development,
Charles Meadows, said the city waited to clear the camp until a new
winter shelter was opened, but also acknowledged that Dayton lacks sufficient
services for its homeless population.
Panhandlers are no longer allowed to solicit money
within ten feet of Daytona Beachs busiest roads because of an
ordinance passed in September of 2003. The new ordinance, in combination
with an already-standing ordinance against loitering, may mean the city
provides no place to go during the day, since there are no day centers
for Daytonas homeless population.
As of August 2004, Daytona is dealing with a crisis
in terms of numbers of people without homes after Hurricane Charley.
The executive director of the Volusia-Flagler Coalition for the Homeless
says that, "the resources are not there."
The city commission voted to permanently ban panhandling
on busy city streets, an ordinance it had considered in December of
2003. The city has a standing law that prohibits beggars, prostitutes,
anarchists, "habitual [disturbers] of the peace," and others
from being found in the city. There are also laws punishing "vagrants."
The city said it was considering approving the new law because of safety
In July of 2004, the Denton City Council unanimously
approved a citywide ban on panhandling in any public place. The ordinance
is very broad and includes people who, orally or in writing, ask for
a ride, employment, goods, services, financial aid, monetary gifts,
or any article representing monetary value, for any purpose in any public
place. In April of 2004 it had revised its solicitation ordinances to
include a ban on solicitations within 50 feet of banks and ATMs. Police
began enforcing the panhandling ban in August of 2004, and had issued
one ticket in a week. Mayor Euline Brock says the ordinance is aimed
at "professional beggars who arent homeless." Housed
residents have voiced concern with the number of "aggressive panhandlers"
in the area, some of whom may have relocated after nearby Dallas passed
an ordinance banning panhandling in 2003. Officers would be encouraged
to give panhandlers information on local services. Many City Council
members say that they "hope" the ordinance will not be used
against homeless people. Although some service providers are supportive,
a homeless resident says, "That might stop some artificial dudes
that have five dogs and live in a house, but for the real homeless,
its just a hardship." The council added a mechanism to review
the ban six months after its creation.
Denver arrested 498 people for panhandling in 2003 and
261 people in the first seven months of 2004.
A Native American woman went to use the bathroom after
waiting at a bus stop and was followed by a male security officer who
invaded her privacy and forced her to leave with the threat of arrest
According to Dallas Malerbi, the Denver Tent City
Initiative challenged the citys urban camping laws and the lack
of shelter space. Malerbi reports that the citys curfew and no
camping laws are heavily and aggressively enforced. Although the group
had held meetings with city officials and agencies had developed a specific
proposal for the creation of a tent city and had held numerous media
events, netting national coverage, the Mayors Commission in May
voted down the proposal. The group is currently pursuing other methods
for creating a tent city.
Skyline Park was renovated and reintroduced in July
of 2004; the area is now on the same level as the street, and more open.
In addition, the Park is hiring seasonal ambassadors to guide visitors
and report wrongdoing. Skyline Park was formerly a site of "begging
A proposal was made to the Denver Homeless Commission
to enact a panhandling ban in Downtown Denver, in addition to the citywide
aggressive panhandling ban. However, this ban, considered "divisive,"
was eventually rejected. Members of the commission had provided documentation
of the idea that such a ban would not stop panhandling, but would simply
John Parvensky reports that the Downtown Denver Partnership
and the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered
to hire an outreach worker and eight "ambassadors" who address
panhandling complaints. Parvensky reports that the citys "ambassadors"
seem to be attempting to "move homeless persons from the mall to
more appropriate settings." Another member of the Denver
Homeless Commission reports that ambassadors have been invited to tour
facilities that serve homeless people and that the ambassadors have
referred homeless people to a clinic and other service providers.
According to Parvensky, Denver conducts regular sweeps
of the Cherry Creek and South Platte River. However, the Parks and Recreation
Department provides 14 days prior notice and makes attempts to help
those removed find alternate housing. In May, a sweep of Clear Creek
was conducted by the cities of Wheatridge and Arvada, suburbs of Denver.
Most of the approximately 100 persons living on the river moved prior
to the sweep.
Detroit is preparing to host the Super Bowl in 2006,
and local advocate Ed Bell maintains that officials want to present
the most positive view of the city by "cleaning up areas that look
bad to them." Bell says, however, that this is being done with
sincerity and a "humane handling of the homeless."
Other conditions are bad, though; Bell reports some
people commit crimes just to get housing. The mentally ill, especially,
are lacking resources.
The Citys Building and Safety Engineering Department
ordered the removal of a mans shack that has been in the area
for almost 20 years. Ralph Thomas had one hour to move his belongings
before the site was bulldozed. The incident was reported in July of
Detroit District Ranger Paul Matter said that in August
of 2004, new restrictions were placed on campsites. The number of campers,
tents and cars will be limited, and visitors who are not staying at
the campsites must leave by 10 p.m. A limit of 8 people has been placed
upon single-occupancy sites, and a limit of 12 people has been placed
on multiple-occupancy campsites. The officer alternated between saying
that the laws were put in place because of lack of infrastructure to
accommodate campers, and these laws were an attempt to ward off "crazies"
and control parties.
In 2003, the Mayor Pro Tem Lewis Cheek of Durham proposed
a plan to ban begging outright in that city. Instead, in November of
2003 the Durham City Council approved a new law that requires homeless
people, or anyone else who asks for money on the street, to pay a $20
license fee. The fee also applies to street vendors. Panhandlers must
also be at least 16 years old, cannot ask for money during the nighttime,
and cannot try to stop vehicles. The law also requires panhandlers to
wear reflective vests. The application requires panhandlers to provide
their Social Security number and a physical address. The city will not
conduct background checks. A woman affected by the new law said, "Im
just trying to do my best and get on my feet. Im not hurting anyone."
A violation of the law carries a $50 penalty.
It was predicted that the new law might limit contributions
to the Durham firefighters drive for money for muscular dystrophy.
In January of 2004, one day after the ordinance took
effect, five panhandlers were licensed by the city.
Eau Claire Police reported in August of 2004 that more
people are complaining about panhandling in the area. Panhandling is
not illegal in Eau Claire, but officers report that if they note the
person using profanity, he or she can be arrested. The City Council
President notes the growing homeless population.
In September of 2003, the El Cajon City Council banned,
by unanimous vote, both day and night sleeping in Judson Park, adding
it to a list of places where it is already prohibited to camp or sleep.
Violators of the ban incur a $50 fine for the first conviction. A reporter
noted that this law made it roughly as expensive to sleep in a park,
as it is to rent a hotel room. In addition, El Cajon renewed both of
its laws generally prohibiting sleeping and camping.
The city also passed a law in September of 2003, by
unanimous vote, that made it a criminal offense to store personal belongings
(camp paraphernalia) in a park.
As of August 2004, the city is moving forward to create
a transitional housing center at the "Fabulous 7 Motel." However,
the plan faced opposition from residents that said it would bring more
homeless people to El Cajon and that individuals not fully treated might
end up on the streets in the area. In addition, in the summer of 2003,
a group of residents and business owners filed a lawsuit against the
city claiming that it had ignored environmental laws. A judge ruled
in the citys favor in December of 2003.
Police have the option of bringing individuals to
a central resource center, which includes an emergency shelter, rather
than to jail (usually at night).
Advocates have been proactive with the city and the
police to promote understanding of the issues around homelessness and
The Citys anti-panhandling ordinance, however, has
also limited the collections of fire fighters contributing to the Muscular
Dystrophy Association. 2004 was the first time in two years that the
officers were allowed "back on the streets" to collect. City
Representative John Cook says that the cause does not matter, and that
all street solicitors must be on the medians and may not step into the
streets. Nonetheless, he suggested that a "possible solution"
might be a permit that allowed groups to panhandle on the streets after
safety training. Presumably, although it is not necessarily likely,
this permit and training should also apply to homeless people.
It was reported in April of 2004 that the ACLU assisted
homeless people in returning to an outdoor mall. In December, 2003,
owners of the property asked police to start a ban in the area against
homeless people, and the police delivered letters to the homeless persons
and persons in transitional housing purporting to have banned them from
the property. The ACLU argued that only the current tenants of the property,
and not the owners, could ban people, and also insisted that a person
cannot be banned simply for being homeless. Merchants raised various
arguments concerning other criminal acts. The police lifted the ban
allowing homeless people to return to such areas as the Social Security
office, a dentists office, a pharmacy, and a dollar store.
In February of 2004, the city council unanimously authorized
an ordinance that prohibits camping trailers and other vehicles "being
used for habitation purposes" from being parked on city streets,
as well as an ordinance that extended the prohibition of camping on
public property from "the hours of darkness" to the full day.
In addition, the city designated areas of the city in which urban camping
is more prevalent and mandated that signs be posted in those areas alerting
potential campers to the parking laws.
City Councilman Dan Dalager said, in January, "We
have provisions that say people cant camp, but people will come
in and park their oversize vehicles, and when the cops come and knock
on their doors, they dont answer."
In January of 2004, a woman who lives in a van in Encinitas
was reduced to tears thinking of the prospect of the new law. She said,
"Were not trying to invade anyones space. Were
just trying to have a little of our own. Maybe if they want to work
with us instead of against us we wouldnt have this problem."
From January 1, 2003, to January 8, 2004, before the new
laws were passed, police responded to 198 calls to "investigate
suspected illegal campers."
Peter Norby, executive director of the Downtown Encinitas
Main Street Association, reported his opinion that the previously "lenient"
restrictions in Encinitas attracted homeless people to their city.
It was reported in August of 2004 that sheriffs
deputies are working as lifeguards to cut down on various behaviors
on beaches, such as overnight camping. Deputies are patrolling the beach
during both the night and the day. Encinitas lifeguard Captain Larry
Giles reports that, "theres been quite a bit of camping going
Its not allowed at all."
In August of 2004, City officials reported they stepped
up enforcement in Grape Day Park, targeting crimes such as drinking,
littering, loitering, urinating, camping and "general misuse of
the park." Police officials say that they are not targeting the
homeless, but several homeless residents said they believe the enforcement
is focused on them. Patrols increased during August. Grape Day Park
is next to City Hall and an arts center. One homeless woman was given
a "(camping) ticket for eating ice cream, sitting on a blanket
in the park, in the afternoon." Another homeless woman reported that
she was told, while she was drawing with her three year old daughter,
that the mayor didnt want her in the park
Linn Antis of the Eugene Mission reports that there are
occasional sweeps along the river where many homeless people reside.
According to Tim Rockwell of the First Place Family Center, a law was
passed to allow up to three homeless people to park on certain property.
However, in Eugene there are about 40 legal areas to park. Police usually
take action against homeless people after receiving a complaint from
the neighborhood, but recently there have been accounts of increased
In August of 2004, the City Council passed
an ordinance prohibiting people from sleeping on public property. The
police are concerned with camp sties that have been set up near springs
in the area. An owner of a local pub talked about the "emergency"
that the city was facing. He said, "Five people have been dropped
off in town, and they are creating havoc. They are making messes and
creating habitats in caves. They need professional help, and they wont
get it here." He also said that, "they arent doing damage
or vandalism, except for the damage they do to the business when they
stand in front begging for money and customers are afraid to pass them.
We just need an ordinance that will help us keep these people moving."
In August of 2003, the City Council approved a video
system that will cover all of Allan Witt Park, Lee Bell Park, and Dover
Park, as well as the Fairfield Community Center. The goal of the city
is to limit loitering, "unwanted after-hours activity," and
homeless camping, among other offenses. There will also be an audio
system installed that will allow officers to broadcast messages to people
in the parks.
The Police Chief of Fargo, Chris Magnus, said in August
of 2004 that the departments Downtown Resource Officers (DROs)
work closely with social service providers, mental health personnel,
and other local treatment professionals to identify homeless people
in Fargo and to determine how to work together to coordinate services.
He refers to the citys actions as following a "case management"
approach and reports crime rates in Fargo are very low. However, the
city will still arrest persons found to be aggressively panhandling
Magnus said, "Consistency and immediacy when it comes
to enforcing the law and making sure these persons are at least briefly
incarcerated is the best way to deter some folk's illegal behavior (aggressive
panhandling, open intoxication, disorderly conduct, etc.)."
In March of 2004, two men were forced out of a cave they
made in the U.S. Coconino National Forest. They were given two days
to remove their belongings. A Forest Service spokesman said the people
who live in the forest create litter and sanitation issues.
In August 2004, it was reported the police in Flagstaff
have a practice of making regular contact with people they refer to
as "public intoxicants," as a part of the Flagstaff police
chiefs strategy, which is based on the "broken-windows theory."
A local newspaper almost excessively detailed the crimes of five such
men, many of whom are assumed to be homeless. One such man had been
arrested 15 times in the past six months, and others had been arrested
a similar number of times. However, many of the "crimes" are
almost by definition "status offenses." The people were arrested
for loitering to beg, criminal trespassing, consuming liquor in public,
obstructing a public thoroughfare, criminal littering, and criminal
nuisance, among other offenses. They also had several convictions for
failing to appear for court hearings.
Residents of Altamont Park want police to do
more to keep transients and vagrants out of their neighborhood according
to news reports.
Religious groups feeding homeless people in nearby
Lions and Centennial Parks and Nabi Biomedical Centers paying
people for plasma contribute to vagrants hanging around the neighborhood,
said Deborah Kelly, coordinator for Altamont Parks neighborhood
Mayor Jim Humphrey said city officials have asked
religious groups to stop feeding homeless people in city parks, but
so far to no avail.
"It seems like were seeing more and more
derelicts," he said. "Its something we need to address."
Police agreed to continue extra patrols in the neighborhood.
From January 1 to September 15, 2004, there were 76
requests for extra patrols in Altamont Park, according to police records.
After an assault by a homeless person on an
employee of a local business, public sentiment about homelessness began
to sour. It was reported in August of 2004 that officials, business
leaders, and service providers met with the Police Chief Randy Reed,
who decided to locate a police substation in a new building near the
downtown. The group also decided on programs that can help the "deserving
homeless." One of the leaders of that initiative, Fred Williams,
whose employee was accosted, and who is on the board of the local Salvation
Army, said that he is concerned the town may be attracting less deserving
homeless people. He said, "The word is out that Fort Smith is a
good place to come and not miss a meal
As a result, we are attracting
vagrant thugs who are aggressive, bold, ignore peoples fences
and run in packs. These are not the kind of folks you reach with soap,
soup, shelter, and salvation." Some residents want the Fort Smith
Bus Station to move out of downtown.
Advocate John Suggs reports an increase in public pressure
to prevent homeless people from camping. This pressure, he says, is
coming from the citizens, business leaders, and redevelopment forces
that are gentrifying the downtown near area shelters. Panhandling is
strictly enforced, especially under the influence exerted by neighborhood
In September of 2003, city officials considered a
plan to spruce up downtown Frederick that plans to remove city benches
from a busy street. The Rev. Brian Scott, executive director of the
Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, disapproved. "There
probably needs to be more benches, not less, in the city," Scott
said. In August of 2004 a city official reported three benches were
removed, but those benches were in disrepair. The official also noted
several new benches were being installed in a nearby area. He did say
these benches have the mid-bench armrest incorporated into the design,
a modification that can be perceived as unfriendly to the homeless.
However, the city official was careful to state such benches were for
use by "all income levels" and the new benches were located
near community agencies serving homeless people.
Glendale enacted a law banning urban camping on private
and public property in July of 2003. This law was described as a preventative
measure, and a Glendale police spokesman reported that homelessness
is "not an epidemic" in Glendale, "but (that they are) are trying to
deter (that type of activity)."
In 2003, the Grand Junction City Council directed
its police force to break up homeless camps within city limits. As a
result, many homeless people have moved outside of the citys jurisdiction
to Mesa County or onto private property. The city launched an anti-panhandling
campaign, called "Giving Spare Change Wont Make a Change,"
in July of 2004, which encourages citizens to donate money to charities
instead of giving it to panhandlers. According to John Parvensky, President
of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the city is sending 23,000
fliers with its utility bills.
In addition, liquor laws are enforced in ways that have
negative impacts on homeless people.
In July of 2004, Weld County commissioners gave initial
approval to a measure restricting panhandling on public rights of way.
The commissioners voted on the ordinance in late August 2004, and the
law went into effect in September. The Greeley Tribune suggests that
panhandlers would be able to collect donations on private property.
However, the newspapers editorial board questioned whether or
not panhandlers would have the funds to pay a fine.
In August of 2004, Hallandale Beach passed an ordinance
that prohibits people from soliciting or vending on roads or street
medians. A group named Helping People in America, which operates a shelter
in Hollywood and sells the Homeless Voice newspaper, voiced its
opposition to the law. Hallandale Beach had previously settled out of
court with the group on a different issue concerning the newspaper.
In September of 2004, the Ordinance Committee of the
City Council is presenting an ordinance banning campers and recreational
vehicles from parking on city streets. The previous law states that
it is "unlawful to store, park, or inhabit" a trailer, but
police said the law was not enforceable, and it was originally written
to prevent transients from taking up residence on Havre streets. The
new ordinance would give police more specific authority.
In August of 2004, Houston approved a "civility
ordinance," expanding the area in which it is prohibited to lie,
sit, or place personal belongings on the sidewalk to include the Midtown
area. A similar ordinance was passed for the downtown area in 2002.
The media and advocates watched during the 2004 Super
Bowl to see if the city would refrain from sweeps as it had promised.
There were no sweepsa victory for advocates. The Houston Police
Department and the Houston City Council include the Coalition for the
Homeless of Houston/Harris County in their decisions about the implementation
and enforcement of the civility ordinance.
The city is piloting a positive program to reduce the
number of homeless people who are jailed unnecessarily. A case manager
will be in court prior to arraignment so individuals can be assessed
and assisted rather than jailed.
There is a significant "Not in My Back Yard"
attitude present, especially among citizens in the midtown area, where
many people experiencing homelessness reside. Similar attitudes in suburban
areas have produced the large homeless population found in Houston.
Outlying cities and even other states give homeless peoples bus tickets
to come into the city of Houston.
It was reported in June 2004, that the Huntington
Police Department had begun a program to target panhandlers and public-nuisance
offenders. Teams of officers, working overtime hours, patrol for four
hours daily, in groups of two, to arrest the offenders. Within a week,
the city had arrested over 25 people. The program began after complaints
from visitors to the downtown area who said the area looked "dirty."
The City Municipal Court says that crimes of panhandling or public nuisance
offenses are punishable by a fine up to $1,000 or three days confinement;
this information was distributed to officers in a memo. Those arrested
for public intoxication, however, are taken to a treatment center where
they are kept until they are sober and evaluations of how to help them
In July of 2004, it was reported that Idaho Falls
officers Josh Deede and Lincoln McDonald routinely check the known places
where transients stay, often hidden in thick brush or large groves of
trees. When they find people camping, they make them leave or cite them
for trespassing on city property. Officer Lincoln McDonald said, "Thats
pretty much their life; theyre used to it. Theyre used to
being contacted by police and having to move on to the next place."
A local business owner who has had people camping behind his store,
said, "Theyre kind of troublesome because they bother the
tourists and customers and things." Police say that local agencies
ability to help is limited, and many people are turned away.
This city sees only occasional problems, says advocate
Donnie Robinet, such as new police officers awakening sleepers in the
Pan Am Plaza. The greatest need, Robinet states, is for public bathrooms.
Another occasional problem, reports advocate Dan Shepley, is less tolerance
to those camping outside. A few encampments have been rousted, though
some were investigated because of violence occurring within the camps.
In August of 2004, two police officers were suspended
from their jobs after trashing a homeless tent site. The officers destroyed
the tents, broke the picnic table, threw chairs into the water, and
threw away many of the belongings of the people living in the camp,
known as "the Jungle." The District Attorneys office
will decide whether to press charges, and the officers were put on paid
suspension. Some people in the area were concerned about alcohol consumption,
but Ithaca Deputy Police Chief Tom Granziani said that alcohol consumption
does not allow officers to take such excessive action.
Three homeless men challenged a drinking ordinance
in June of 2004 because of its vagueness, and because the law will be
waived for a future event. The argument concerned a 2.5-mile entertainment
zone that will be designated for 18 days before the 2005 Super Bowl
in which all laws on public drinking, noise pollution, and outdoor sales
will be lifted. This area includes the park in which the men were arrested.
The public defender, Tyler McKinney, is asking that since Jacksonville
lifts the law to prevent the arrests of big name guests to the city,
others should not be arrested.
This small town has no laws on the books that criminalize
homelessness, but there is "a lot of NIMBY[ism]," or Not in
My Back Yard, states advocate Barbara Anderson. Jeffersonville is located
across the river from Louisville, Kentucky, and there is a mix of resistance
to a perceived influx of people from the city and a movement to remove
homeless people from the town.
In December of 2003, District Court Judge Paul Bridenstine
found a homeless woman guilty of sleeping in a park where "overnight"
camping is illegal. He ordered the woman to pay a $50 fine.
As of December 2003 and April 2004, officials of the
Jackson County Prosecutors office and business leaders wanted
to ban petty offenders from an eight-block "safe zone" near
the citys new $40 million library. Designers of the proposal saw
it as targeting criminals and not the homeless, specifically. However,
a conviction for aggressive panhandling would lead to banishment from
the library zone, as a condition of probation. As libraries are public
spaces often used as resources by the homeless population in Kansas
City, exclusion would be punitive.
In August of 2004, however, a Kansas City Police representative
reported that she was not familiar with the safe zone.
Kissimmee passed an ordinance requiring stores with more
than 20 shopping carts to install a device, such as an alarm or a barrier
that would curb shopping cart theft. Winn-Dixie Stores complained that
the city hadnt demonstrated there is an underlying problem requiring
In May of 2003, Kissimmee police outraged homeless advocates
by posing as homeless people to catch drivers running red lights. The
sting was known as "Operation Vagrant." The officers wore
fake teeth, dressed in tattered clothing, and pushed shopping carts,
reinforcing homeless stereotypes. They also carried cardboard signs
that read, "Sheriffs traffic sting in progress. Buckle up."
John Parvensky, President of the Colorado Coalition for
the Homeless, reported that Lakewood passed an aggressive begging ordinance
in August of 2004, and it is modeled on Denvers ordinance. The
ordinance places very specific restrictions on the manner in which begging
and panhandling can be carried out, but it does not ban begging entirely.
"(Panhandling) hasnt really been a problem, but we dont
want it to become one," said city spokesman Steve Davis. "The
ordinance was drafted in hopes of having it in place before it would
In August of 2004, city workers rousted homeless
campers from three sites in the woods along the Kansas River and leveled
their make-do shelters with earth-moving equipment. A local camper said,
"Its all gone, everything. I know a grown man aint
supposed to cry, but this is the last straw. Aint nobody read
the Ten Commandments, the part where it says thou shalt not steal?
Thats what they did, they stole every thing I had." The campsites
were cleared without any warning, and the residents only had 10 minutes
to vacate the area. One resident lost a guitar that he used to earn
tips. He said, "I have no way to replace my guitar. I cant
work. My back is bad, I got a bad heart. I have no money." The
City Manager had assumed that the residents would be given a 24-hour
notice, although they were not. Lawrence has no formal policy for breaking
up illegal campsites.
Two weeks later, in mid-August, city workers rousted
homeless campers from sites along the Kansas River. City Parks Director
Fred DeVictor said, "We put up signs, giving everybody a 24-hour
It looked like everybody had pretty much gotten his or
her stuff out of there. It was mostly trash that was left." The
city has reported to social service officials complaining about how
the earlier rousting was conducted that a 24-hour notice will be issued
in the future.
Hedgerows on the perimeters of public places have
been cleaned out to deter camping in those areas. There have been some
community concerns about the prominence of homeless people in public
areas like the library, reports advocate Carol Stevenson. Overall, Ms.
Stevenson feels that, with increased advocacy and a better public awareness
of the issues on both sides, workable solutions can be found.
The township banned overnight camping, and, in 2001,
was sued by the Sanilac County Parks Commission, which argued Lexington
Township laws should not apply to county parks such as Lexington County
Park. The law was stopped in the original lawsuit, but the city overturned
the ruling on appeal, and camping was again prohibited. The county filed
papers in August of 2004 to bring the issue to the Michigan Supreme
In October of 2003, Mayor Bryan Baptiste issued a
press release stating all people camping in city parks without a valid
permit must find other shelter. One month after the order was issued,
most of the campers who had no permit left the parks. Only two citations
for camping without a permit were handed out.
The police regularly ticket people for camping outdoorsclearly,
those who cannot afford to pay, notes homeless advocate Mike Giard.
Arrests and other ticketing sometimes occur as well. The ticketing activity
definitely becomes more prevalent before and during the local Grand
Prix races and other special events that take place.
Police conduct sweeps in parks where homeless people
often congregate. During these sweeps, people are ticketed, told to
move along, scared away, or arrested. There are extremely strict homeless
laws in Long Beach, according to Giard, and the enforcement is equally
An August, 2004 newspaper article notes there is conflict
between some business owners and the residents of high-end lofts near
Lincoln Park, and the people who serve food to the homeless in the park,
as well as the parks homeless residents. One business owner said
the feedings created a "magnet" for homeless people. One of
the people serving the food said, however, that the groups serve in
the park because the homeless population is already there, and so it
is logical to serve in the area.
In December of 2003, Longmont prohibited solicitors,
including charities, from making requests in or near a street or highway.
Council members and police say panhandling increased in Longmont after
Boulder passed its own ordinance. Police officers cited safety concerns
In February of 2004, the Longview City Council approved
an ordinance prohibiting people from removing items from waste bins.
Some people are concerned the ordinance could be used to target homeless
people. Violators would face a fine of $125, but could not be sentenced
to jail. Police say the ordinance is aimed at curbing identity theft.
Police Chief Bob Burgreen said homeless people and the poor are "not
the people that [they are] targeting, but [they are] going to be talking
to people if they are in [residents dumpsters]."
According to Jackie Floyd, loitering is one of the
few things which homeless people are sometimes unfairly arrested for
in Louisville. Also, Floyd says, homeless people are sometimes picked
up for public intoxication and held to detoxify in jail even though
there are detoxification services available at other, alternate facilities.
These persons are not held under arrest, but are detained until sober.
However, the homeless advocacy group and the police have a strong working
relationship. Advocates go through police training and new police recruits
learn about and visit shelters and mental health institutions.
Drinking in some Madison parks is against the law, and
though there are few arrests, reports homeless advocate Judith Wilcox,
attentive monitoring by the police is common.
Many high-school-age youth are involved in aggressive
panhandling, though they might not be homeless themselves, and they
have sparked complaints from local residents. As Wilcox puts it, "they
reinforce a homeless stereotype even though they are not homeless."
In March of 2004, the Governor of Wisconsin, Jim Doyle,
signed a law raising the penalty for stealing a shopping cart from $50
ReachOut, a program designed to reduce panhandling
and homelessness without resorting to criminal enforcement measures
has been around for two years on State Street.
Funded through a mix of public and private sources,
the program has helped get people off the streets and into housing and
addiction treatment programs, organizers say.
The program received a 2003 award from the National
Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty for its alternative approach
to addressing homelessness.
Since April of 2004, the program has helped 14 people
turn their lives around, according to the ReachOut organization.
The Martinsburg Police Department Chief Ted Anderson
said in a speech in August of 2004, to business owners and city officials
that, "alcohol consumption, panhandling and prostitution"
continue to be some of the main concerns in downtown Martinsburg. The
city passed an anti-panhandling ordinance in the early 1990s. Anderson
said, "The best way to drive out the wrong kind of people is to
drive in the right kind." He indicated that the people sitting
in the City Council chambers were the "right kind" of people.
The local homeless coalition conducts awareness training
with the police department, which according to advocate Constance Graham
has been successful. Police are supposed to refer people to agencies
or shelters rather than take them directly to jail.
According to Graham, the AutoZone Redbirds Stadium,
built a few years ago, precipitated a new effort to "revitalize"
the surrounding areas. New condominiums are going up, and the poor being
pushed to other parts of town. There is significant concern that the
new basketball arena, the Fed Ex Forum, which is being built in the
poorest zip code in Memphis, will quickly gentrify the surrounding neighborhoods.
Graham feels that any success service providers have
come from collaboration between the HIV/AIDS coalition, the independent
living center, legal services, and homeless advocates. A Mayors
Task Force to End Homelessness and a new informational advertising campaign
are also helpful.
In May of 2004, the City Commissioner of Miami opposed
the feeding of homeless people in the downtown area, and said 76 organizations,
"including religious groups," must stop feeding. He has offered
to provide transportation to and from the churches providing the services.
The director of homeless programs for the city cited garbage and rats
as part of the concern behind the prohibition against feeding outdoors.
However, some homeless people have complained about the quality and
freshness of the food provided in such facilities. The Mayor, however,
added teeth to his comments by insisting that organizations would be
forced to pay fines and face arrest for serving homeless people. If
a response was not heard from the churches, then the commissioner threatened
to pass the ordinance making feeding illegal.
In August of 2004, a Middletown reporter volunteered
to spend three nights on the street to learn what being homeless felt
like. Aside from noting the criticism and disdain of young people, he
also reported that it is a criminal offense to solicit spare change.
He said that while he thinks Middletown has adequate food and shelter
services, he does not think these services are sufficient to get "people
off the street." In addition, he reported anecdotes that were told
to him by homeless people detailing police strip searches and people
being arrested for cursing at police. He was arrested for sleeping in
the park, released, told not to return to the park lest he be arrested
for trespassing. The officers attempted to refer him to a shelter, but
found that no spaces were available. In August of 2004, it was reported
that the citys only homeless shelter is "always at capacity."
In March of 2004, a homeless man challenged a Minneapolis
anti-begging ordinance and won. The ordinance declared begging illegal,
but the judge decided in favor of the man, stating his begging was no
different than a state-registered charity asking for money and that
it is considered free speech and thus protected by the First Amendment.
The City decided not to appeal the unconstitutionality of the old ordinance.
However, in May of 2004, the City Council reworded the panhandling ordinance
as well as the no-loitering ordinance. The Legal Aid society of Minneapolis
had suggested striking the words "or any other act prohibited by
law," to improve the constitutionality of the ordinances.
According to Margaret Hastings, The Community Advisory
Board approved the Decriminalization Task Force Recommendations with
changes for clarity. These recommendations will now move to the Minneapolis
City Council for approval.
In addition, Margaret Hastings reports that in March
of 2004, a man with no permanent address was arrested for "dancing
in the street." The city law stipulates, "No person shall dance
or engage or participate in any dancing upon any public street or highway
in the city." In addition, in 2004, people with no permanent address
were arrested for vagrancy. The police report noted that they "looked"
like they were not employed and could not provide proof of employment
to the arresting officers.
In the fall of 2003, a few police officers resurrected
an old "Wandering Abroad" ordinance from the 1880s to
convict homeless people who were in certain neighborhoods, reports advocate
Dan Williams. Police arrested one individual for public intoxication
although the individual in question actually suffers from epilepsy.
However, after advocates contacted the Deputy Police Chief these arrests
have ceased. "Good strategies," Williams says, "are key
in this small community to preventing criminalization problems."
The Modesto City Council enacted a revised ordinance
in July of 2003, outlawing panhandling near banks, ATMs, restaurants,
parking garages, bus stops, intersections with traffic signals and anywhere
people are standing in line. The ordinance also bans aggressive panhandling
and carries a misdemeanor penalty.
In a town meeting in August of 2004, a local business
owner reported, "The street people are scaring our customers away."
The Modesto Police Chief, Roy Wasden, reminded the resident that an
aggressive panhandling ordinance had been passed and that homelessness
is a more complicated issue.
A Modesto Food Not Bombs chapter demonstrated in August
of 2004, to protest the citys treatment of homeless people. The
protest was directed at an alleged police practice of driving homeless
people out of Tower Park. A group of advocates also held a "Know
Your Rights" workshop in the park.
Beach, South Carolina
In July of 2004, Myrtle Beachs new anti-loitering
law went into effect. In August of 2004, after the first month, police
had written 13 tickets. Police have been told not to enforce the law
"too strictly." A city councilwoman, Susan Grissom Means,
lamented the presence of homeless people in parks and cited their presence
as one reason why she supported the law. While loitering laws around
the country have been stricken down for vagueness, the Myrtle Beach
law ties loitering to "criminal intent," "loitering with
harmful purpose, loitering for prostitution or loitering for drug traffic,"
among other categories.
In August of 2003, a homeless man received a 12-year
prison sentence for spitting on a sheriffs deputy. While being
transported in the back of the officers patrol car, David Hird
coughed up phlegm on the deputy. At the time, Hird was under arrest
Instead of arresting homeless people, police officers
now summon a "homeless assistance unit" that guides homeless
people to a shelter, hospital or substance abuse clinic. The unit consists
of graduate students in social work.
However, in July of 2004, a body was found in the
Mississippi River that was identified as a 25-year-old resident of New
Orleans. This man had previously had five felony arrests, and his most
recent arrest was for begging in the French Quarter in June.
Las Vegas, Nevada
In 2002, North Las Vegas passed an ordinance "requiring
retailers to establish mechanisms to prevent shopping-cart theft."
The City then hired a company that retrieves abandoned carts for a fee
of $3 and passes the cost along to stores.
In the greater Los Vegas area, Clark County Sheriff Bill
Young has been accused of arresting homeless people unnecessarily, among
The SoNo Alliance, a "neighborhood improvement
group," has been pressuring the city to deal with the loitering
and littering behavior of homeless people in the vicinity of a shelter.
The police department reported there are few laws that police can enforce
to curb the behavior aside from laws against littering, public drinking,
and blocking sidewalks. However, in August 2004, it was reported that
the city was drafting an ordinance "to crack down against panhandling."
Shelter director Steve Krank reports the 1,600 men
who come into the shelter are reporting many stories of harassment.
On some days, Krank reports, everyone sleeps during the dayciting
the regular sweeps of their encampments as the culprit. There was recently
a sweep in mid-June, in the downtown area.
New efforts by Mayor Jerry Brown and the city to redevelop
downtown have created a move of homeless and poor people away from downtown.
In August 2004, it was reported the city had made
62 arrests on the street for public intoxication, trespassing, drinking,
and public urination since January 2003.
In addition, in August of 2004, the city debated a
proposed ordinance concerning banning the sale of single cans of beer,
or "class A licenses" for businesses on 25th Street,
to tackle the problem of" inebriated transients." Nearly two
dozen people criticized the proposed ordinance, including representatives
of businesses that would be shut down by its passing, saying larger
businesses like Wal-Mart would be able to sell the same products, but
stay in business. The city said it would further study the issue and
hold another public hearing in October. The ordinance was seen as a
way to clean up "Historic 25th Street."
There is a complaint-only basis for enforcement of
panhandling in Oklahoma City. Therefore, a person who panhandles is
not bothered or questioned unless someone, such as a storeowner, makes
a formal complaint to the police. This is usually infrequent, stated
Dan Straughan, until a particular issue arises.
A new county commissioner created an inter-jurisdictional
committee on homeless issues to work on effective changes. Bread and
Roses has created a new advocacy center that helps those cited for public
disturbances, says Selena Kilmoyer, but these citations are not common
occurrences. As a result of public pressure after several incidents,
the city was trying in 2002, to enact several anti-homeless measures.
Due to interaction between homeless advocates and the police force,
these ordinances have not been put into play.
However, there is prejudice against homeless people in
the city. A homeless advocate from Seattle who serves food reported
that in Olympia "people come down and harass us for feeding the homeless."
Not many ordinances have been passed this past year,
and ordinances such as panhandling are not enforced very often. However,
there is a sense of mounting pressure on the homeless population.
The police are more actively enforcing panhandling
ordinances. The lunch programs sponsored by local churches feed large
numbers of homeless people, so pressure was placed on these churches
to end the programs, but no legislative action has been taken yet.
Several recent events have made Mike Saklar of the
Siena Francis House wary of impending legislation. Saklar has received
warnings that police will start to ticket for jaywalking, but there
has been no evidence of action thus far. The city closed down a motel
that offered cheap rentals, displacing over 100 people. Recently a homeless
camp near an arena convention center, home to about 21 people, was cleaned
out and the area bulldozed. The downtown library has attracted a larger
homeless population, and though the director of the library appears
sympathetic, Saklar is concerned that policies might change in the future.
Orlando police said they would go undercover to catch
panhandlers who beg for money outside of 32 designated zones where panhandling
is allowed. Violation of the anti-panhandling ordinance in Orlando carries
a $500 fine and imprisonment for up to 60 days. As of September 2003,
the stings had netted only one arrest.
In November of 2003, the Pahrump Town Board enacted
a law that made it a misdemeanor to accost people in a public place,
to beg or solicit alms, to go begging door-to-door, to loiter, to prowl
or wander on private property unlawfully, to loiter or sleep on any
street, sidewalk, alley, building or automobile without the owners
permission, and to loiter around a public toilet in a lewd manner. Some
claimed the law is far too broad and vague, extending to any public
place. "People have a right to walk down the street and not be
asked for money," said Sheriff Tony DeMeo. The town board member
who introduced the law cited a confrontation with three aggressive panhandlers
as the impetus for drafting the bill.
In July of 2004, twelve homeless persons were rousted
from camps on private property "deep in the woods." These
camps were considered "advanced" and had running water and
alarm systems. Families were living in such camps. Brevard County is
currently experiencing a shortage of emergency shelters for families.
In August of 2004, Pasadena business owners near the
Union Station shelter still opposed the 20-bed expansion of a womans
shelter. The project to build an extension was denied in July of 2004,
by a zoning hearing officer who said it could negatively impact public
safety, health, and welfare. The officer referenced "passionate
testimony" from "dozens" of affiliates of business, who
described the failure of the shelter to fully patrol and clean up waste
in the area. The shelter defended its policies, saying it had a "daytime
security guard who patrols the area, policing the homeless and talking
to business owners." However, later in August the appeals board
unanimously approved a new permit to allow the shelter to expand, but
stipulated the shelter must clean the trash and patrol the area.
Over the past few years, Philadelphia has dramatically
reduced the number of chronically ill or addicted homeless people on
the streets. They did this not by forcing them out, imprisoning them,
or busing them. Instead, they helped them acquire what they needed:
help and housing. With teams of outreach groups, a build-up of affordable
housing, and 24-hour shelters, Philadelphia began telling people experiencing
homeless the city could help, and this time, the offer had teeth. The
City of San Francisco is doing research in an attempt to duplicate the
services that Philadelphia provided to its chronically sick and addicted
However, advocate Roosevelt Darby notes that accessing
programs for homeless people is sometimes more complicated than is necessary.
He reports that individuals often have to be screened into the "New
Keys" program, and that some people targeted for help cannot be
found by the time they are accepted. Darby commented that self-reported
success is not always the most accurate record of results and that people
should carefully determine the actual results from the programs.
Darby also said many homeless people realize that if someone
doesnt want to be hassled then he/she doesnt spend all of
their street time in the city center. "The street population is
more mobile these days. They know when to hit a feeding downtown for
example, and then how to disburse and become invisible to
avoid the hassle," said Darby. The conclusion might be that homelessness
has not been reduced as much as dispersed and, therefore, hidden.
Robert V. Hess, the citys deputy managing director
for special needs housing, said the city would urge food providers to
move their operations indoors. In general, Hess said, the policy seeks
to move homeless people off the streets and into shelters, not jails.
A 1998 law bans aggressive panhandling from the sidewalks; other laws
bar certain kinds of public behavior, such as loitering and lewdness.
Hess said the city has usually sought to address homelessness as a social,
economic or medical problem.
Riann Balch reports the police and advocates have
made extremely positive strides in changing community policing from
arrests toward services. "A small police force, for a city of this
size, with priorities other than harassment, helps," reports advocate
and Dr. Louisa Stark.
Stark notes a new "connection to care" program
where police officers team up with social workers and service providers
to arrest everyone in one night who is trespassinglarge numbers
of homeless people. They are then taken to a "general command post"
where all the service providers in the town are available: detox, food,
blankets, mental health, among others. These providers give them "tasks."
If someone shows up at an appointment, the charges will disappear; if
the person does not, the individual will be convicted.
Stark reports the original intent was positive: to prevent
criminalization of people experiencing homelessness. The original concern
involved helping rather than incarcerating. However, there is now an
unfortunate "either-or" situation: they can either comply
with the service providers, or face criminal charges.
Riann Balch points to another positive initiative
of "care teams", which are diverse outreach teams of behavior
specialists, police officers, court workers, and others. They go out
and interact with homeless people and then network to share resources.
A new Human Services Center is being built, which
will centralize all of its services, making it easier, perhaps, for
clients to access them. However, it will also decrease homeless peoples
visibility in the greater community, making it a way to push the homeless
individuals out of sight, Balch states. Stark notes the Center is a
"homeless campus," which consolidates services and frees up
the valuable, prime real estate the social services currently inhabit.
So, a supposedly convenient centralization can also be viewed as paving
the way for downtown development.
In August of 2004, an "investigative" television
news team reported "at least a half dozen men" were arrested
for aggressive solicitations during the past year. The article reports
that a Phoenix Police lieutenant said of panhandlers, "some of
these people do not have the mental capacity to make judgments or have
You are not going to have anything positive resulting
from that kind of conversation." However, the article also refers
to new training for officers to better assist homeless persons.
The Police department has significantly reduced its
rate of fatal shootings, in part by incorporating crisis intervention
training for officers, an anonymous source noted.
Advocates for the homeless accused Pittsburgh officials
of flouting a court settlement on how to handle the private property
picked up in sweeps of makeshift encampments. Under the agreement the
city must give homeless people access to the belongings that had been
confiscated in the three days following a sweep. However, some say that
homeless people must call for an appointment to claim their belongings.
In January of 2004, the city targeted a homeless encampment
for demolitionthe same encampment the city had dismantled in November.
Downtown advocates have been trying to combat the seedy
atmosphere of Market Square, where panhandlers and "vagrants"
stay. While the police are trying to combat drug problems around specific
bars, some residents cite the homeless population in general as the
issue. William Bochter, former commander of the Hill District police
station, says part of the strategy is a visible police presence to counter
non-aggressive panhandlers and "well behaved vagrants." In
July of 2004, local restaurant and business owners were concerned a
long-standing mobile meal program for the homeless was "bad for
Safe Haven, a shelter that has been open for a year,
will be closing in the fall of 2004, due to lack of funding. Shelter
space is limited in the suburban areas of the city. Plymouth Police
Captain Charles Chandler said police become involved with people in
camps only when someone complains of a disturbance. Chandler said, ''There
just aren't many places to take these people, and some don't request
shelter." Chandler also said people are only taken into protective
custody if they are considered a danger to themselves or others.
In July of 2003, leaders of the Church of the Pilgrimage
"reluctantly cut down shrubs encircling the nearby church activity
center" because of the actions and presence of homeless people
in the area.
According to Willie Redmond, there are occasional
arrests for vagrancy of individuals found in parks, under stairs, in
doorways, etc. Businesses often respond negatively to large groups of
homeless people, but do not bother other individuals. Police sometimes
help homeless people to shelter when there is a need.
Advocate Steve Houston reports police often use the
charge "obstruction of a public way" to prosecute homeless
persons. For example, panhandling is legal, and therefore, homeless
people cannot be ticketed or arrested for that activity. However, an
individual standing on the sidewalk to panhandle can be cited for obstruction
of a public way instead. Loiterers are often arrested or ticketed as
"Solicitation of a motor vehicle" is illegal,
but enforcement is selective and specifically targeted at homeless people.
A person who posts a sign or holds a sign could be ticketed or arrested.
However, high schools, Girl Scout troops and other groups often use
carwashes for fundraising and hold signs to attract cars, but the ordinance
is never enforced on them.
A new hospital is being built in one of the few downtown
areas where homeless people often congregate, and the nearby encampments
are being cleared. On the east end of Munjoy Park, where many homeless
people camp, there are massive sweeps in preparation for the Fourth
of July and other special events. There are few public restrooms, and
there is extreme discrimination against homeless people using private
A homeless woman reported that while she slept, a
policeman kicked her repeatedly, awakening her, and took her into his
patrol car. He drove her to a police station, where he attempted to
book her for camping in public, but a fellow officer told him that he
could not do this, so he dropped the homeless woman off without giving
back her personal possessions.
A new voucher program, "Real Change, Not Spare
Change," was enacted in 2004, by the Portland Business Alliance.
The program suggests that vouchers for 25-cents be given to panhandlers
to redeem at one of four local social service providers. The four providers
see very few of the vouchers come through and werent sure of the
value of the program.
In March of 2004, the Right to Sleep Alliance protested
the citys camping ban, hosting a rally. This group was aware the
"no sleeping on sidewalk ordinance" is lifted the night before
the Grand Floral Parade so people can grab an early seat. In June of
2004, the Right to Sleep Alliance and homeless individuals, used the
temporary lifting of the ordinance to make their point by rousting parade
watchers. They issued fake tickets early in the morning so those awaiting
the parade would understand what a normal day was like for someone experiencing
In June of 2004, a county judge, Marilyn Litzenburger,
overturned a law that made it illegal to block a portion of the sidewalk,
the "obstructions as nuisance" ordinance. The law was declared
unconstitutional for limiting rights given by the First Amendment, as
a result of the trial of three anti-war protestors. A spokesman for
the mayor is considering appealing the decision and the city is expected
to rewrite the law.
Portlands "Dignity Village," a camp
community, enters its third year of existence. One columnist says that
Dignity Village, while not the solution to homelessness, "gives
hope, a sense of self-worth and community to people who come there from
complete isolation on the streets." Portland has also included
$11 million in new long-term financing for low-income housing.
It was reported in August of 2004, that homeless people
camping in the woods near the town are sometimes asked by police to
move along, and, if the location where they are camping is city property,
the police clear the campsites.
In 2002, homeless advocates in Providence were unsuccessful
in preventing the passage of an aggressive panhandling ordinance. The
advocates have made progress communicating to the Providence police
when shelters are full and that at least one has closed in the past
A new downtown merchant associations attempt
to "clean up" the area, a move advocates were afraid meant
homeless people would be pushed out, actually resulted in the hiring
of some homeless people to newly-created maintenance jobs for the business
Cathy Rhodes, a local advocate, stayed at the same corner
for a number of days to test the police response for herself. She was
arrested after about a week, the police citing her and others for disorderly
conduct and the potential safety hazard of her location. The charge
was dismissed in court.
Complaints of panhandling drove Providence police to close
down a homeless camp in August of 2003. Police gave the campers warning
the night before they intended to close the camp. "We gave them
time to move out," a police officer said. The camp had existed
throughout the summer and hosted between three and ten tents at a time.
One officer helped a homeless couple return home.
It was reported in January of 2004, that some police patrol
the streets to try to prevent homeless people from freezing to death.
The police do not have the authority to move people, but an EMT accompanying
them can declare a medical emergency. The article reported that homeless
people seemed afraid that the officers were stopping them to arrest
them for panhandling.
Two police officers are being disciplined for dismantling
a set of homeless camps in March of 2004. They wrecked the camps, scattered
belongings and slashed tents. After this episode, a fire began; investigators
claim the fire began hours after the two police officers left the site.
Details of the disciplinary actions are being withheld at this time,
and proper restitution is being considered for the owners of the camps.
A new policy requires persons living in camps be given 24 hours to tear
down their own campsites. Officer training is also now being required.
In August of 2004, new storefront signs in Raleigh
discouraged giving to panhandlers. One reads, "Promote real change,
not spare change." The campaign was created by the Downtown Raleigh
Business Alliance. One local businessman says the signs reduce the number
or persons entering the restaurant to beg for money, but also many homeless
individuals have expressed unhappiness with the campaign.
City, South Dakota
In November of 2003, forty-nine business owners presented
a petition to the city asking it to impose tougher laws on panhandling,
drunkenness, and loitering. Rapid City Councils Legal and Finance
Committee voted to send the petition to the ordinance review committee.
However, as of August, 2004, Jason Green, city attorney, said there
had been no action taken on the issue.
Responding to complaints from the public, undercover
police arrested dozens of day laborers in late October 2004 under a
local ordinance that prohibits soliciting for employment in public.
Police, posing as people seeking to hire workers,
made 58 arrests over three days at two intersections, police Capt. Joe
So far, 10 of those arrested in the three operations
in October have pleaded guilty and received three years summary probation,
a 180-day suspended sentence, ordered to pay a booking fee of about
$300 and ordered to stay away from the intersections used by the laborers,
The police plan to stage additional undercover operations
against the laborers and also against people who hire them, Leonardi
Many cities have ordinances prohibiting day laborers
from soliciting work in public but arrests are rare, said Thomas Saenz,
vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense
and Education Fund. "In general, our position is that ordinances that
prohibit day laborers from soliciting work form public areas are unconstitutional,"
Redondo Beach has in the past looked into creating
a place for day laborers to gather, but this suburban community has
not been able to spare the expense.
Police are being trained to deal with some problems
the homeless community faces, such as substance abuse and mental illness.
The police now look to providers for help in directing individuals towards
services rather than arresting people. However, there are normally sweeps
in the city during the tourist season, especially late summer. Hotels
that often serve as affordable transitional housing often kick out their
low-income occupants for other visitors during the citys annual
"Hot August Nights."
A program called "chronic offender mapping"
was initiated in November of 2003. Police patrol the streets to identify
offenders they consider to be good targets. Persons with a history of
misdemeanor charges are given two options: receive a suspended sentence
and stay away from downtown or go to jail.
Businesses in Reno, including the 4th St.
Business Corridor group and casinos, have been extremely hostile towards
attempts by elected officials, police and service providers to develop
a multi-service shelter. A group of Reno business owners sued the city
in March of 2003, challenging the decision to locate the shelter in
a "struggling area." The pervasive negative attitude by business
even led one individual to assert that no money should be spent to house
people. After an almost epic thirty-year struggle between these two
opposing groups, a shelter is scheduled to be built, contingent on additional
According to advocate Mark Leslie, there are no anti-homeless
laws, except a prohibition against panhandling on medians -- for safety
concerns. Leslie states he doesnt see or hear of many violations
In October of 2003, a 46-year old homeless woman incurred
a fine of $10 for sleeping on a public bench in downtown Roanoke. She
stated she intends not to pay it and quotes, "I had been pushing
that buggy, and, I tell you what, it wore me out." The officer
who arrested her in September of 2003, said she was "unsightly."
In May 2004, the city passed an aggressive panhandling
law. Many people attending the council meeting objected to the law,
calling it cruel and pointless. Adam McFadden, a council member who
voted against the ordinance, said, "To fix a problem like [aggressive
panhandling], you need a true task force that will study why people
are begging for money and how to get people the help they need."
The passage of the law coincided with large cuts to public assistance
by New York Governor George Pataki.
In August of 2004, the first people facing charges, many
of them homeless and with no money, came to court to settle the charges.
One of the defendants who eventually got a warning said, "They
say its best to ask than to take, so thats what I do. Im
not the type that likes to take from you, so I ask you." Many others
may be having their fines reduced.
Rochesters panhandling law will also adversely affect
the city firefighters drive for Muscular Dystrophy. Firefighters
are considering other means to collect the funds, so they dont
have to "put police in an uncomfortable situation."
Local advocate, Paula Lomazzi, reports Sacramento continues
to ban camping and police have even recently harassed people for merely
possessing camping gear. At least two jury trials for camping tickets
are currently ongoing. In the nearby community of West Sacramento a
few people actually went to jail for having their possessions in carts
after they were told to vacate camps and their possessions were thrown
In 2003, and 2004, homeless people safely slept on the grounds of
St. Francis Church after a compromise was reached among the church,
city officials, and the local neighborhood. The church agreed to limit
the number of homeless people on the grounds. St. Francis also built
some new fencing to allow access to their bathrooms and hired a security
guard to protect the campers from being attacked.
In November of 2003, a young homeless man was arrested
for verbally assaulting an officer after he said the officer was "being
discriminatory against the homeless."
A television news company reported in the summer of 2004,
that "residents and business owners in Salem say that they [were]
getting fed up with the growing number of panhandlers in the city."
Salem Mayor Janet Taylor says there are currently no laws regarding
panhandling. Police Lieutenant Bill Kohlmeyer says Oregon did have a
law against panhandling, but it was declared unconstitutional by the
Oregon Supreme Court. The law was still in existence in October of 2003,
although the Oregon Supreme Court staff reported they could find no
such ruling in August of 2003.
The Oregon Capitol Inn that houses the working poor will
be razed within the next two years, and a new, $25 million, mixed-use
development will move in, displacing the former residents. Residents
will now have to look for other places to live, although the business
still has a years lease. A local opinion columnist reported in
August of 2004, that these residents are "one notch above homelessness."
Salems volunteer park patrol has been in operation
for ten years and aims to combat criminal activity. In August of 2004,
it was reported residents saw fewer people camping in parks. A resident
said, "You dont see that (homeless camping) anymore. I feel
that the park patrol has really taken care of them." One volunteer
said, "Our job is to get the police there. Were the eyes
and ears; were there to discourage bad behavior."
Lake City, Utah
Local businesses in the downtown area pressured the police
to issue citations to homeless people for trespassing. Even while waiting
in line for food at the St. Vincent de Paul outreach center, people
Bill Tibbitts, an advocate at the Crossroads Urban
Center, met with 100 homeless individuals before taking proposals to
a committee to search for a solution to the growing tendency to target
homeless individuals. The outcome was only a description of Salt Lake
Police Department policy, but Tibbitts says, "This [proposal] is at
least a step in the right direction." Bill Haydock, a homeless
resident in Salt Lake, says that jobs are what are needed most. He said,
"Being out of work creates an opportunity to get into trouble.
Money is really the only solution."
A study conducted by the Crossroads Urban Center and
led by advocate Joe Hudson found that 52 percent of the homeless people
interviewed had been arrested within the past 6 months. In addition,
the number of citations given out by the city was considerably higher
in the Pioneer Division, which covers a downtown-shopping district.
It was reported in June of 2004, that Salt Lake City operates
a "homeless court" every Friday at the Catholic Community
Services Weigand Resource Center for the Homeless. Judge John Baxter
will waive peoples warrants for public nuisance citations if the
people charged agree to perform community service helping other homeless
Day laborers who gather near the Home Depot on 21st
Street and Highland Ave. say they have been unfairly targeted for violating
According to City Attorney James F. Penman, the police
department has been hearing dozens and dozens of complaints for over
But Mayor Judith Valles said she was unaware of any
problems with day laborers near the Home Depot. "I have a hard
time believing they were cited for being on the sidewalk," said
Between August 26 and September 15, the police issued
tickets to 21 people for blocking the sidewalk while trying to solicit
work from passing motorists on the street outside the store, Penman
The workers face fines of up to $340 per person.
Workers have requested the help of Libreria Del Pueblo,
a nonprofit immigrant assistance organization in the city. They have
formed an informal union to press their concerns. Eventually, the workers
want the city to help them open a day labor center.
Workers say they are tired of playing cat-and-mouse
with police and Home Depot employees.
When employees see them in the parking lot, they are
asked to leave. So they move to the sidewalk, but quickly disperse when
police arrive. Most are back again the next day and the same scenario
Most citations were issued on August 26, when a large
group of men surrounded an unmarked police car in the middle of the
street and asked for work.
Workers who continue to violate city codes can expect
to be prosecuted under a new ordinance approved by the City Council
in September of 2004. The ordinance, which would prohibit aggressive
begging and solicitation, goes before the Council in early October 2004.
If signed by the mayor, the law would take effect 30 days later.
Advocate Sandy Maynes reports in late May of 2004,
a sign was posted in a prominent park where many homeless and low-income
people gathered which read, "No Camping, Sleeping, Drinking, Pets,"
among a long list of other prohibited activities.
Back in the summer of 2003, the coordinated "Bread
of Life" program that fed almost 300 people was forced to terminate
its program because its land, rented from the city, was reclaimed for
renewal. A new condominium complex is going up next door.
The new Padres baseball park was built recently in
a formerly low-income area. A group of homeless people held a demonstration
to protest the construction.
In August of 2003, it was reported that the Downtown
San Diego Partnership and other groups have "turned their focus
to making sure the homeless dont interfere with local businesses
and their customers." The partnership performs "welfare and
wake-up" checks to keep people experiencing homelessness out of
In October of 2004, Larry Milligan, a longtime activist
for homeless people, asked the City Council to create a "safe site"
on city-owned property, where homeless people could bed down in an area
patrolled by police.
Milligan also asked the Council to order police officers
to stop ticketing homeless people for sleeping in public when there
are not enough shelter beds available for them. He said the tickets
are making criminals of people for being homeless.
There are 2,019 shelter beds and 4,458 homeless people
in the city, according to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.
Milligan said he believes that in San Diego some homeless
people are sleeping in more remote areas to avoid tickets.
Michael Zucchet, a member of the City Council and
whose district includes downtown where many homeless people congregate
and receive services, said he does not support a moratorium on illegal
lodging tickets. He also does not support using city property as night
Figures from the Police Department show that 2,055
illegal lodging tickets have been issued through September of 2004,
more than all of last year when 2,026 were written.
Assistant Police Chief Cheryl Meyers said the tickets
are a way of "managing the homeless problem" when there are complaints
from the public.
Police Executive Assistant Chief Bill Maheu added
that illegal-lodging tickets are warranted when people are breaking
the law. "Homelessnesss is not an excuse to commit crime," Maheu said.
John Thelen, project director of the Regional Task
Force on the Homeless, said police officers have told him they try to
avoid writing the illegal lodging tickets. "The problem is that
there arent enough beds," Thelen said. "Even if you
cite them for illegal lodging, where are they going to go?"
Deputy Public Defender Steve Binder said the tickets
are unfair. Each ticket carries a fine of $135, which homeless people
"The need for emergency shelter beds or a safe
zone is paramount for folks who are homeless in San Diego," said
Binder, who founded a Homeless Court program to help homeless people
resolve legal troubles. "The police are not bad guys. Theyre
being put in the middle of a very serious social problem."
Anti-trespassing and camping laws are being enforced
sporadically, with camps being cleaned out every few months. People
are sometimes able to recover their things, and sometimes they are not,
states advocate Michelle Covert.
Many of the homeless people here are families and
not very visible; thus they face little resistance, reports John Holland.
Juan, Puerto Rico
In April of 2004, a San Juan mayoral candidate and
current Puerto Rican Independence Party senator denounced the "increasing
criminalization of the homeless by the central and municipal governments."
He also said, the two main causes for the increases in numbers of homeless
people are the closing of the mental health centers on the island and
a lack of support and funding for drug treatment and rehabilitation
Craig Albright suffers from multiple sclerosis and
lives in his RV. He was issued two $30 citations for parking in an industrial
area during the night. In February 2004, his attorney from the Committee
for Social Justice contested not only the citations for Mr. Albright,
but also the way the city used the law.
A package of possible ordinances came under fire in May
of 2004, for targeting homeless people. The new laws would primarily
address graffiti issues, but included a prohibition on drinking in small
parks and sitting or lying on news racks in certain areas. Councilman
Brian Barnwell commented that, while they are honestly trying to address
a behavioral issue in outlawing graffiti, the law, "confuses legitimate
homeless issues with [other] problems." Councilman Das Williams
said that, "there is a strong faction on the council that wants
to make a better life for the homeless but another that wants to use
neighborhood preservation as a way to crack down on the homeless."
Some local business leaders and shelter operators have met to try to
work together on the issues.
The Santa Barbara City Clerks office reports that
none of these ordinances had been presented to the ordinance committee
as of mid-August, 2004.
According to Becky Johnson, the city has pressured
local homeless activists and groups into not feeding homeless people
on public streets through a variety of actions. The city council also
walled off planters on Walnut Street to prevent people from sitting
down as well as installing a "change machine" to discourage
people from gathering and sitting in front of a local store.
Lynne Griever of the Georgia Task Force for the Homeless
reports the number of homeless people has reportedly been reduced from
over 7,000 to about half (approximately 3500) over the past two to three
years. Aggressive police action since April of 2002, may have had a
great deal to do with the reduction in numbers of homeless people who
are visible downtown. A new initiative aimed at clearing downtown sites
of unwanted problems, especially in the area of Chippewa and surrounding
squares, has resulted in hundreds of arrests downtown for panhandling,
open containers of alcohol or similar minor offenses.
Service providers are funded through and supervised by
the Chatham-Savannah Homeless Authority, a quasi-state agency. Griever
reports Savannah serves as an example for cities wanting to control
service delivery. There are, however, many reports that people without
homes are arrested and forced into programs as a part of their sentencing.
One man said, "We used to be able to show up at the
square and pick up day jobs. Then we were arrested for being where we
were hired for work. Now we are often sent out to do community service
on the same jobs we used to get paid to do." The Chatham-Savannah
Homeless Authority participates in this effort.
Several men also said people were arrested for insignificant
offenses and forced to work in programs where hours of daily Bible study
and prayer meetings are mandatory. They said it was a regular occurrence.
Some of the representatives of service providers said
they questioned some of the policies, but were reluctant to get involved
because of funding issues. They said they had participated in more of
an open forum before the "The Authority" was adopted. (There
had been a Savannah Coalition for years, where advocacy and collaboration
were the norm.) Now, there are a lot more politics involved if funding
is at stake.
Scottsdale prohibits both public camping and
public urination. A homeless Scottsdale woman was ordered not to wash
her clothes in a public fountain.
Pioneer Square is in old downtown Seattle and is the original
"skid row." Parts of it are undergoing redevelopment changes
that are not usually in the interests of the poor, reports advocate
Joe Martin. One tactic used is the "Parks Exclusion Law," which applies
to Seattle's municipal parks. Anyone who breaks a law like drinking
alcohol in a park can get a citation excluding him from that park. In
the business district there is no sitting, lying down, or panhandling
allowed. A homeless person found engaged in any of those activities
is generally threatened and told to move along.
"Alcohol Impact Areas" (AIAs), such
as Pioneer Square, are specially restricted alcohol zones. Within these
areas vendors are prohibited from selling fortified wines, malt liquors,
and single bottles of beer. However, everything else is still sold in
the area surrounding the park: upscale wines, six-packs of beer, and
many bars, serving mostly non-homeless clients.
Tent City in Seattle has existed for almost a decade
(its current incarnation is Tent City 3), and for the past five years
it has moved every 30-90 days, depending on the agreement this nomadic
community makes with various churches or community groups, reports advocate
John Fox. Tent City 3 has reportedly moved 40 times in recent history.
It launched a satellite (Tent City 4) in the community of Bothell in
Greater Seattle on county property. However, after a huge uproar, residents,
as Martin puts it, "raised holy hell." He describes the amount
of viciousness and xenophobia he saw exhibited at a public hearing,
after which the county backed down from its original agreement. A local
church, however, allowed homeless people to camp on its property. Tent
City 4 has moved to Woodinville from Bothell.
In October of 2003, the city cracked down on "the
Jungle," a homeless camp in an urban forest. Bart Becker, spokesman
for Seattles Office of Housing, said homeless camps "pop
up regularly in parks, on hillsides, and in overgrown areas." He
also said residents are notified in advance if the city decides to clean
up those camps.
In August of 2004, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels decided
he would not shut down evening feeding programs near City Hall, but
would move them to a plaza outside the citys vacant old Public
Safety Building. The city is stalling the demolition of that building.
Providers called for a public protest of the decision to move the feeding
site, and three City Council members committed to serving meals at the
City Hall location in an act of "civil disobedience." Earlier
in the week, Nickels had said food programs at City Hall Park could
not serve after 4 p.m. in response to what he perceived as a problem
of violence in the area. A 77-year-old member of The Lords Table,
who had been serving food to homeless people, reported that, "they
told [her] that [she] was attracting undesirable elements."
The restriction on the feeding time at the park will remain in effect.
However, service providers have the option to move to the other location.
The Public Safety Building will only be open for a few months into the
fall of 2004.
Falls, South Dakota
Rather than being swept out for special occasions
this summer, homeless people who were in the parks have already been
displaced by gentrification.
Advocate Susan Campbell reports racially motivated
enforcement is common for Native Americans, who represent a disproportionate
number of the homeless population.
Campbell says the police work closely with advocates
and, however reluctant, they follow the line of the law and only transport
people to shelters rather than arresting them. In South Dakota, Campbell
notes, it is more a matter of life-or-death than civil rights, especially
in the winter months.
On September 21, 2004 the Sonoma County Board
of Supervisors finalized an ordinance making it a misdemeanor to camp
out or live in a vehicle.
It is now unlawful to camp anywhere outside of a campground.
It is even unlawful to camp in a private parking lot. If one stays in
one spot or even nearly "three or more consecutive hours"
in a camper or in a sleeping bag, you are subject to arrest. Any homeless
person who sleeps and "uses any camp paraphernalia" is also
subject to arrest. Penalty--$500 fine and 60 days in jail.
The ordinance does allow an exception for tired drivers
who want to pull off the road and sleep.
Lake Tahoe, California
Law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Forest Service
sweep the forest looking for illegal campers each year. One of these
sweeps occurred in July of 2004; one person was arrested and one was
told to leave the area. Sergeant Tom Mezzetta of the Douglas County
Sheriffs Department reported fire is the main concern, and he
said, "any type of campfire set up in the woods, under the current
drought conditions, especially, is a real concern." However, Sergeant
Alex Schumacher of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department reports he
is also concerned that, "the people living up here tend to be more
criminally oriented." United States Forest Service officer Rex
Norman reports, however, "there are several instances where people
who work in the casinos, but cant afford housing, live out in
the woods. It is their need to cook, and, since they dont camp
in a designated area, the safety measures just arent there."
The Nevada Division of State Parks reportedly does not allow overnight
camping on its land, and they monitor their land to prevent such use.
South Lake Tahoedoes not have many services and can offer
little aside from a voucher for a bus trip out of town, a meal or a
few nights at a motel. There are no homeless shelters in El Dorado County,
and the closest shelter is in Carson City. El Dorado County has only
rough estimates of the number of people without homes living there.
A city "transient shelter" ordinance was
passed in July of 2004, banning camping on city land. This ordinance
makes it possible for anyone using any sort of temporary shelter, such
as a tent or tarp, on public property to be given a misdemeanor penalty.
The fines for such a penalty can reach as high as $1,000 and imprisonment
for 90 days. A group of over fifty homeless people set up a tent city
in downtown Spokane to protest the new law. A week later Mayor Jim West
ordered police to surround the encampment and force the group out with
a threat of arrest. The group is reportedly hoping for space from the
city for a tent city. Councilman Bob Apple had told the homeless people
camping at City Hall they would have until August 23rd to stay. However,
City Councilman Dennis Hession said the ordinance became law August
11th. The group was hoping to present the City Council with a petition
that would have put a referendum on the ballot concerning these issues,
but the petition had to be delivered before the law came into effect.
The group was still trying to raise signatures on the night the law
went into effect. They were made to move on the 11th, after the police
threatened to arrest them for being a nuisance.
A tent city of approximately 60 tents and more than
80 people appeared at a lot on a busy Springfield intersection in July
of 2004. The Open Pantry Community owns the lot. The camp, which was
started by Arise for Social Justice, had previously been erected on
the property of St. Michaels Cathedral. The city inspected the
camp for fire code violations and found spoiled food, wood chips, and
inadequate hygiene and bathroom facilities. The residents of the "tent
city" cleaned up the area and are now being allowed to remain on
the property. City health inspector Steven Stathis said the group was
"making progress." The assistant executive director of the
Open City Pantry said, "We intend to fix all the violations. Were
going to help people figure out what they need and assist them."
In July, Mayor Charles V. Ryan said city officials would work with Open
Pantry to obtain permits and meet sanitary codes. The camp was apparently
a surprise to the executive director of the Open City Pantry, but he
noted the organizations willingness to accommodate the homeless
residents. However, local business owners said the camp was "atrocious"
and "a disgrace."
The director of the Open Pantry stated in August of
2004, he would like to move the camp to a safe indoor location. He worried
about the financial strain and the winter cold. However, the Open Pantry
continued to provide support, including building supplies for a fence
and four outdoor toilets.
A high school boy wrote an editorial in the paper
after he camped in his backyard to try to simulate the experience of
the campers in Springfield. He experienced anxiety, boredom, loneliness,
and fear. He said, "My views have changed. The homeless need a
home and not just in Springfield, but everywhere. If you feel otherwise,
try being homeless for a night yourself."
In St. Johns County it is illegal to sleep outside,
reports Jean Harden. If seen doing so, a homeless person will not be
arrested, but awakened and told to "move on," and forced to
do so all night. Those who have to work the next day are then working
without any sleep. The county sheriff drops people off at the county
line to get rid of them.
In a part of the tourist district people often gather
to sell artwork, weavings, or play music. However, an ordinance was
renewed in February of 2003, that requires musicians to get a license
to perform, except in designated areas.
In St. Augustine, Harden reports, there is no city
money available for social services, and only a little available from
the county. There is no HUD funding, no Section 8 housing, and a severe
shortage of shelter beds simply because the county truly does not want
what they perceive as "undesirables" there.
In July of 2004, members of the St. George Police
Department swept through an area along the Virgin River, near a popular
recreational trail, to "locate and eradicate campsites used by
the homeless." Police are concerned about the flammability of the
tamarisk grove the campers are cooking in. The police did not arrest
anyone or issue citations, but they did encounter and harass a homeless
man, disrupting his campsite. Doug Barr was living in a camp in the
Barr said police went through his belongings and confiscated
his friends possessions. "They treated me as anything other than
a white man," Barr said. "Harassment is not even the word for it. I
was called, personally, a worm. I was told that if I was caught on the
bike trail, either riding my bike or walking on the trail, that I was
going to Purgatory (jail). I was also told to spread the word to all
my 'transient bum friends.' They treated me like I was a piece of garbage."
St. Louis receives a "B+ rating for being fair"
according to Gregory Vogelweid of the St. Patrick Center. Aggressive
enforcement of nuisance crimes often occurs on holidays, most recently
on the 4th of July, when approximately 100 people were arrested,
both people experiencing homelessness and unruly visitors. An active
legal aid organization in St. Louis and a cooperative relationship with
social service providers keeps the police in check. In Business Improvement
Districts, people experiencing homelessness are treated with respect
and are often hired in paid positions to work for the city. The current
city administration places an emphasis on housing and employment instead
of ignoring homeless issues.
In late September 2004, a municipal judge should not have
prescribed community service work for people accused, but not convicted,
of nuisance crimes. Jeff Rainford, chief of staff to Mayor Francis,
pledged that the tactic will be not repeated.
Rainford also said the city will stop accepting private
funds from a downtown organization to support the court that deals with
such crimes. Critics have suggested the money might unfairly influence
There are two pending lawsuits that target the practices.
Those suits generally claim that the city is trying to drive homeless
people out of downtown by violating constitutional rights. Initial hearings
were held in late September on the alleged mistreatment.
Rainford insisted the city does not target homeless people.
"There is no plan to sweep the homeless from downtown or use them
to clean up after the fair," Rainford said. "Those charges
are false, and we are not going to settle that lawsuit."
John Ammann, director of the St. Louis University
Legal Clinic, said the city has yet to rebut the lawsuits claim
police officers threw firecrackers at homeless people at Lucas Park,
just north of main downtown library, during the fair.
Police Chief Joe Mokwa has pledged to make an inquiry.
In mid-October, a federal judge ordered that the St.
Louis police cannot remove homeless people from public places if they
have a lawful right to be there.
Despite the temporary restraining order, the St. Louis
police do not plan to change how it interacts with homeless people.
In June of 2004, the city moved to draft a law that would
ban solicitors from public roads every day of the week. The law would
make it illegal to vend or solicit donations from the median of a road.
The law would also make it a crime to hand out or receive items from
the side of the road. The City Council is likely to vote on the ordinance
in September of 2004. One homeless man that was panhandling noted the
lack of sympathy he sees from some residents. A man driving by him yelled,
"Get a job!" He pointed to his sign, which said that he was
a veteran, and he said, "Im a vet. Ive done my job."
He also said, "The police harass me all the time
Im not out there breaking into peoples homes or cars. I
want a job, a roof over my head, just to be able to sit down like a
normal person and watch TV. Im not out here because I want to
be." City rules already ban panhandling in certain areas.
In August of 2004, city officials spoke about
the idea that they may enact an ordinance banning panhandling, as a
result of the increased population of visible homeless persons near
the "rebounding downtown." Some business owners complain panhandling
is a burden on their customers, while one, who owns a clothing store,
did not feel that the problem was as significant. Suffolk is studying
the actions of other cities.
The Syracuse Common Council dropped a proposed law that
would have banned aggressive panhandling in September of 2003. The bill
was withdrawn in favor of stronger enforcement of laws already on the
As of August 2004, homeless advocates of the Tacoma-Pierce
County Coalition for the Homeless are looking into starting a tent city
in that town, following similar models around the state and in the Pacific
Northwest, such as those in Portland, Seattle, and Woodinville, as well
as farm worker housing in the Wenatchee Valley. The coalition says,
some sort of interim housing is necessary for the citys chronically
ill homeless population. Homeless advocate Reverend Harry Montgomery,
founder of Under the Bridge Ministry, had plans to open a "Destiny
Village" in Tacoma, but these plans fell through, although the
coalition does have plans of working with him in the future. The City
of Tacoma leases the property that was planned for the "Destiny
Village" site from the state Department of Transportation and couldnt
give permission to use the lot for a tent city. Some advocates in the
area, however, see the move towards tent cities as an act of surrender,
and some see them only positive as a last resort.
In August of 2004, the Tallahassee city commissioners
considered making it illegal to solicit on intersections. However, there
were several editorials in the papers that tried to compel the city
commissioners not to vote for the new law. One high school boy with
muscular dystrophy was concerned with limitations on the firefighters
"Fill the Boot" Campaign and expressed his opinions in an
editorial in the local paper. Charity car washes might also be affected,
as well as the Shriners drive to help burned children. As a result
the city commissioners are considering requiring a permit and insurance.
There does not seem to be a proposed permission process for homeless
people to panhandle. The ordinance would still allow people to solicit
on the sidewalk, but motorists would have to pull over to private property
to give donations. In late August 2004, there was a public hearing concerning
the law and the decision was postponed.
Members of Food Not Bombs were arrested for serving
meals in a city park in April of 2004. Tampa police were caught on tape
as they arrested three people for trespassing as they stood in the park
and fed the homeless. The activists defended their actions by saying
they should be able to have a picnic and share with their friends. Two
laws that related to the serving concerned city parks generally, and
one concerned the "Franklin Street Mall District" specifically.
In one of these ordinances the city required the payment of application
and rental fees for use of the city park by groups and limited the number
of special events to three a year. Both ordinances contained ambiguities
and contradictions. In addition, the "Franklin Street Mall District"
ordinance was determined to be unconstitutional because of its limitation
on free speech. In light of this decision the city agreed, in the summer
of 2004, to suspend enforcement of the ordinances and to drop all charges
relating to the Food Not bombs members.
Urban camping, aggressive panhandling, public urination,
and sidewalk sitting are all criminalized in Tempe. There are no shelter
facilities currently available in Tempe, but in 2003, 23 people were
arrested for urban camping. Persons found violating this law are generally
arrested after receiving three warnings for sleeping in the same location.
In 2003, and 2004, the Free to Camp Coalition held several events criticizing
the urban camping ordinance.
Many homeless residents accept plea bargains that ban
them from the primary commercial area, Mill Avenue, which is also the
site of some of the few services in the area. In addition some homeless
residents are finding it more difficult to make use of private facilities
Advocate Sue Brown reports, homeless people who stay
by the river are moved before special events. There are also some sweeps
in the downtown area where there is considerable hostility towards homeless
people. However, Brown feels the city councils recent formation
of a homeless task force is a positive move for this city.
The city does not heavily target homeless people, and
an arrest is made only if very aggressive panhandling occurs. According
to Denise Micai, during the winter months the police transport homeless
people to shelters and out of the cold. However, in April of 2004, it
was reported that people were being arrested for aggressive panhandling.
A homeless person spoke of the unfriendliness of the
University of Arizona Police in March of 2004. "UA police are notorious
for being negative towards the homeless," he said. "(The Tucson Police
Department) isn't as bad. Campus police don't have as much experience
on the streets. (UAPD) are like certified security guards." The University
police said, they do not contact people unless there is a complaint
or someone is doing something illegal.
Local advocate Sandra Holden reports no sweeps, but advocates
worry about an arena being built only blocks from the main service provider.
They are concerned this could become a prime area for sweeps and gentrification
in the future.
Holden says much of the low income/Single Room Occupancy
housing in the downtown area has been cleared with no apparent plans
to rebuild or replace any of it. A new library and convention center
are planned for the same area, and Holden states no one seems worried
about the displacement of the homeless in this situation.
The city spends significant amounts convicting and
arresting homeless people for things like public drunkenness. However,
the city does not give money to the social services; these services
are primarily supported by the private sector.
In Union City, in August of 2004, there were conflicts
between police and homeless individuals who camp in the local Wal-Mart
shopping lot. The corporation allows RV campers and others to park in
its lots overnight. However, Wal-Mart officials said allowing
the homeless to camp was not their intention. Police say they have been
enforcing a 2002 ordinance prohibiting sleeping in cars and this law
applies to Wal-Mart. "Being homeless isn't illegal but apparently
sleeping in your car is,'' said a woman who has been homeless and camped
at the Wal-Mart for several months. "Now you tell me, how can you
be homeless and not sleep in your car?''
According to a March 2004 article, fliers were placed
around the city urging homeless people to protest excessive ticketing
and telling them to take the full sentence instead of a plea bargain.
Gina Record, an activist whose name appeared on the flier, said she
is trying to help homeless people, but withdrew the fliers when she
felt she was antagonizing police. The local prosecutor said the plea
bargains, as well as the offers to help and rehabilitate people, are
used to help people out of jail time and into a better life.
Nearby oceanfront and new downtown area developments have
contributed to the removal of homeless encampments, reports advocate
Deborah Maloney. During the tourist season, there is more enforcement
of laws for sleeping in public, panhandling and loitering than at other
times. People are primarily asked to "move along" from the boardwalks,
and other tourist spots, while some are being ticketed.
District of Columbia
One ordinance prohibiting setting up a "temporary
abode" is often used to ticket and sometimes arrest individuals, reports
Ann Marie Staudenmaier. However, she feels there is significant underreporting
about citations for occupying public space and there are improper arrests
There has been an increase in requests for police sweeps
in developed areas and especially under bridges as the city has come
under increasing pressure from the federal government to conduct these
sweeps as an anti-terrorist measure. However, those sweeps took an unusual
turn after one that occurred in Georgetown this past year. After advocates
complained that individuals' belongings were destroyed in the sweep,
the city agreed to a temporary moratorium on all sweeps while working
with advocates over the year to negotiate a policy which protects the
property rights of homeless individuals, but also allows the city to
clean up public space.
The policy, which is very close to completion, will provide
for 14-day notice to occupants of the sites slated for clean-ups, as
well as outreach by service providers to encourage voluntary removal
of all property. Those whose property is taken by the city will have
45 days to claim any belongings seized. Advocates are concerned the
backlog of these clean-ups has neighborhoods and merchants very frustrated,
and once the policy is in place, the floodgates will open to massive
sweeps all over the city.
Staudenmaier sees general harassment by the police as a continual civil
rights violation. Though it is illegal, police often ask to see ID or
search belongings arbitrarily. Advocate Cheryl Barnes concurs, stating
that Metro, Federal, and City police forces work together in a way that
is detrimental to homeless people. Despite this policy, the training,
which Staudenmaier conducts for Police Recruits on homelessness in D.C.,
is going well and hopefully will continue to educate and change the
attitudes of police recruits.
In June of 2004, King County, where the City of Woodinville
is located, approved an ordinance banning any tent city on county-owned
property until a special citizens advisory committee issued recommendations
in August 2004.
Tent City 4 was erected in May of 2004, at St. Brendan
Catholic Church in Bothell, Washington, after organizers from SHARE/WHEEL
of Seattle had threatened to camp on county park land. Hundreds of homeowners
came out to protest the King Countys original plans to host the
camp in early May. Some Bothell residents who came to meetings held
signs that read "No Hobos." The City of Bothell sued the church
and the organizers to evict the campers, require a permit, and pay police
overtime for a patrol car parked outside of the camp, saying the Church
had violated zoning regulations. The Superior Court eventually required
a permit, but did not require campers to pay the overtime of officers.
St. Brendans priest had received complaints from 1,350 parishioner
families, but no families left the church as a direct result of its
hosting the camp. Several families pulled their children from the neighboring
In the meantime, the Northshore United Church of Christ
in Woodinville applied to host the camp after the Woodinville Alliance
Church announced in July it had withdrawn from talks to host it. In
August, the city bowed to public concerns and made a sudden council
decision to move Tent City 4 to a city-owned industrial property rather
than to the church property, which is near schools and homes, and which
had volunteered to host the camp. Earlier in the month 200 residents
attended a city council meeting, many voicing concerns about the Churchs
offer to host the camp. The City enacted an emergency ordinance to allow
for the use of the new site only days before the camp was to move to
the Church property. On August 11, 2004, the residents of the camp in
Bothell decided unanimously to move to the new site in Woodinville.
The tent city may now remain on the Citys property for 40 days
minimum and 60 days maximum.
The nearest neighbor to the campsite, the Woodinville
Business Center, filed a lawsuit in mid-August against the city, hoping
to shut down the camp. However, a temporary restraining order was denied.
The case was to be fully heard in September 2004. The City Manager,
Pete Rose, said, "Were concerned. No one likes to be sued.
We think weve done the right thing for Woodinville. Hopefully
the decision on the temporary restraining order is the first indication
that were on solid ground." In late August, the city clarified
the land use rules of the emergency ordinance that permitted the campers
to move into the city. It added new constraints specifying that overnight
camping without a permit is illegal in Woodinville in park facilities
not designated for that use. The ordinance also added new rules concerning
washing in park facilities and the reservation of park facilities.
A King County Citizens Advisory Committee on
Homeless Encampments released its report just before the tent city was
to move, saying tent cities should be allowed on public and private
land because government and charities have failed to address the problems
of homelessness. The group met for two months prior to the report. Bill
Kirlin-Hackett, co-chair of the committee, said, "Tent cities are
not the best solution, but, at the same time putting people on the streets
is even less acceptable. A Tent City is a better solution than being
on the street." The committee decided to put several restrictions
on tent cities in King County, primarily dealing with the size and management
of the camps and the requirement of two weeks advance notification of
the public and local governments. However, the report also urges the
governments to situate tent cities on public land as opposed to private
land. Tent City organizers have been pushing for this provision.
A resident of the tent city said the Woodinville property
is roomier than the Bothell camp and he liked his new neighborhood.
Some Woodinville residents and church members chose to build a new playground
nearby for homeless residents to use. Some tent city residents said
they planned to return to Bothell. About 20 of the tent citys
100 residents chose to stay at various places in Bothell.
Residents of the tent city can be banned by the other
residents for bad behavior. About 50 were banned for not completing
required duties or breaking the code of conduct, which bans drinking
and drugs. A registered sex offender was also discovered, and camp residents
required him to leave. Organizers say their internal checks and disciplinary
measures work to control the behavior of camp residents.
On September 20, the City Council voted to extend how
long Tent City 4 can use city land. The passed ordinance allows Tent
City 4 to remain on city property either until its organizers receive
or are denied a temporary use permit for the site, or through November
22. The permit would allow the tent city to stay for 60 additional days.
Tent City 4 is waiting for the St. John Mary Vianney church
near Kirkland to decide whether it will be the next host.
report in .pdf form | Introduction
| Background | Methodology
| Problem Statement/Consequences of Criminalization
| Model Programs | Conclusions
& Recommendations | The Cities Included
in this Report | Meanest Cities | Narratives
of the Meanest Cities | Narratives of the
Other Cities | Prohibited Conduct Chart
| Survey Questions | Incident
Report Form: English & Incident Report
Form: Spanish | Sources