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Narratives of the Other Cities

Albuquerque, New Mexico

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 judge’s 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 area’s 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 people’s 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 Department’s 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. Albuquerque’s "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.

Amarillo, Texas

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 park’s 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 it altogether.

Anchorage, Alaska

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 reports.

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."

Asheville, North Carolina

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.

Ashland, Oregon

Ashland’s anti-camping 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.

Athens, Georgia

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 O’Toole, 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. O’Toole 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."

Atlantic 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.

Augusta, Georgia

According to Georgia Task Force’s 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 he’d 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.

Avondale, Illinois

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."

Bakersfield, California

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.

Baltimore, Maryland

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 wouldn’t 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 abuse.

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" since 1994.

Beaverton, Oregon

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.

Billings, Montana

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. It’s 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.

Birmingham, Alabama

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. "It’s going to make it difficult for someone who is arrested and homeless on the street; now they’re going to have a record. It’s 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. "It’s 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 doesn’t matter whether you’re homeless or not, but if you’re sleeping in a public place you need to get up and get out of there."

Boston, Massachusetts

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 city’s 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 they’ve done everywhere else where they’ve 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.

Boulder, Colorado

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.

Bradenton, Florida

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 area.

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.

Buffalo, New York

"The largest civil rights violation homeless people face is housing discrimination," said local advocate Bill O’Connell. 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.

Charleston, South Carolina

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 community.

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, North Carolina

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."

Cheyenne, Wyoming

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.

Chicago, Illinois

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 individual’s path or using profane or abusive language." Violators could be fined $50 for first and second offenses, and $100 for subsequent violations.

Clearwater, Florida

Police have been harassing homeless people, reported Richard Hruska, in January of 2004. Police checked homeless people’s identifications and repeatedly asked them questions without obvious prompting.

Cleveland, Ohio

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 in harassment.

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 individuals–a positive step.

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.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

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.

Columbus, Ohio

Kent Beittel of the Open Shelter reported the shelter’s 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, "Don’t 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.

Corpus Christi, Texas

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.

Covington, Kentucky

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 instead.

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 "there’s no admission of wrongdoing, and I can tell you that the primary reason for settling it was an economic reason."

Davenport, Iowa

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.

Dayton, Ohio

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. Dayton’s 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.

Daytona Beach, Florida

Panhandlers are no longer allowed to solicit money within ten feet of Daytona Beach’s 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 Daytona’s 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."

Deland, Florida

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 concerns.

Denton, Texas

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 aren’t 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, it’s just a hardship." The council added a mechanism to review the ban six months after its creation.

Denver, Colorado

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 for trespassing.

According to Dallas Malerbi, the Denver Tent City Initiative challenged the city’s urban camping laws and the lack of shelter space. Malerbi reports that the city’s 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 Mayor’s 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 and loitering."

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 displace panhandlers.

John Parvensky reports that the Downtown Denver Partnership and the Denver Metro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau partnered to hire an outreach worker and eight "ambassadors" who address panhandling complaints. Parvensky reports that the city’s "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, Michigan

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 City’s Building and Safety Engineering Department ordered the removal of a man’s 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 2004.

Detroit, Oregon

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.

Durham, North Carolina

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, "I’m just trying to do my best and get on my feet. I’m 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, Wisconsin

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.

El Cajon, California

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 city’s favor in December of 2003.

El Paso, Texas

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 mental health.

The City’s 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.

Elkton, Maryland

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 dentist’s office, a pharmacy, and a dollar store.

Encinitas, California

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 can’t camp, but people will come in and park their oversize vehicles, and when the cops come and knock on their doors, they don’t 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, "We’re not trying to invade anyone’s space. We’re just trying to have a little of our own. Maybe if they want to work with us instead of against us we wouldn’t 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 sheriff’s 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, "there’s been quite a bit of camping going on… It’s not allowed at all."

Escondido, California

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 didn’t want her in the park

Eugene, Oregon

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 targeting.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

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 won’t get it here." He also said that, "they aren’t 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."

Fairfield, California

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.

Fargo, North Dakota

The Police Chief of Fargo, Chris Magnus, said in August of 2004 that the department’s 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 city’s 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 or disorderly.

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.)."

Flagstaff, Arizona

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 chief’s 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.

Fort Myers, Florida

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 Center’s paying people for plasma contribute to vagrants hanging around the neighborhood, said Deborah Kelly, coordinator for Altamont Park’s neighborhood watch program.

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 we’re seeing more and more derelicts," he said. "It’s 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.

Fort Smith, Arkansas

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 people’s 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.

Fort Worth, Texas

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 associations.

Frederick, Maryland

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, Arizona

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)."

Grand Junction, Colorado

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 city’s jurisdiction to Mesa County or onto private property. The city launched an anti-panhandling campaign, called "Giving Spare Change Won’t 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.

Greeley, Colorado

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 newspaper’s editorial board questioned whether or not panhandlers would have the funds to pay a fine.

Hallandale Beach, Florida

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.

Havre, Montana

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.

Houston, Texas

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 sweeps–a 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.

Huntington, West Virginia

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 are made.

Idaho Falls, Idaho

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, "That’s pretty much their life; they’re used to it. They’re 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, "They’re 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.

Indianapolis, Indiana

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.

Ithaca, New York

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 Attorney’s 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.

Jacksonville, Florida

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.

Jeffersonville, Indiana

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.

Kalamazoo, Michigan

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.

Kansas City, Missouri

As of December 2003 and April 2004, officials of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office and business leaders wanted to ban petty offenders from an eight-block "safe zone" near the city’s 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, Florida

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 hadn’t demonstrated there is an underlying problem requiring the regulation.

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, "Sheriff’s traffic sting in progress. Buckle up."

Lakewood, Colorado

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 Denver’s 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) hasn’t really been a problem, but we don’t want it to become one," said city spokesman Steve Davis. "The ordinance was drafted in hopes of having it in place before it would be needed."

Lawrence, Kansas

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, "It’s all gone, everything. I know a grown man ain’t supposed to cry, but this is the last straw. Ain’t nobody read the Ten Commandments, the part where it says ‘thou shalt not steal? That’s 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 can’t 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 notice… 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.

Lexington, Kentucky

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.

Lexington Township, Michigan

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 Court.

Lihue, Hawaii

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.

Long Beach, California

The police regularly ticket people for camping outdoors–clearly, 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 strict.

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 park’s 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.

Longmont, Colorado

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 for panhandlers.

Longview, Washington

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]."

Louisville, Kentucky

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.

Madison, Wisconsin

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 to $500.

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.

Martinsburg, West Virginia

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.

Memphis, Tennessee

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 Mayor’s Task Force to End Homelessness and a new informational advertising campaign are also helpful.

Miami, Florida

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.

Middletown, Connecticut

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 city’s only homeless shelter is "always at capacity."

Minneapolis, Minnesota

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.

Mobile, Alabama

In the fall of 2003, a few police officers resurrected an old "Wandering Abroad" ordinance from the 1880’s 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."

Modesto, California

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 city’s 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.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

In July of 2004, Myrtle Beach’s 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.

Naples, Florida

In August of 2003, a homeless man received a 12-year prison sentence for spitting on a sheriff’s deputy. While being transported in the back of the officer’s patrol car, David Hird coughed up phlegm on the deputy. At the time, Hird was under arrest for trespassing.

New Orleans, Louisiana

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.

North 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 other things.

Norwalk, Connecticut

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."

Oakland, California

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 day–citing 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.

Ogden, Utah

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."

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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.

Olympia, Washington

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."

Omaha, Nebraska

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, Florida

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.

Pahrump, Nevada

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 owner’s 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.

Palm Bay, Florida

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.

Pasadena, California

In August of 2004, Pasadena business owners near the Union Station shelter still opposed the 20-bed expansion of a woman’s 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.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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 homeless population.

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 doesn’t want to be hassled then he/she doesn’t 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 city’s 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.

Phoenix, Arizona

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 trespassing–large 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 people’s 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 conversation… 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.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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 demolition–the 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 business."

Plymouth, Massachusetts

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.

Pontiac, Michigan

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.

Portland, Maine

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 well.

"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 businesses’ restrooms.

Portland, Oregon

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 weren’t sure of the value of the program.

In March of 2004, the Right to Sleep Alliance protested the city’s 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 homelessness.

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.

Portland’s "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.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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.

Providence, Rhode Island

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 year.

A new downtown merchant association’s 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 district.

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.

Raleigh, North Carolina

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.

Rapid 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 Council’s 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.

Redondo Beach, California

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 Leonardi said.

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, Leonardi said.

The police plan to stage additional undercover operations against the laborers and also against people who hire them, Leonardi said.

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," Saenz said.

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.

Reno, Nevada

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 city’s 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 funding.

Richmond, Virginia

According to advocate Mark Leslie, there are no anti-homeless laws, except a prohibition against panhandling on medians -- for safety concerns. Leslie states he doesn’t see or hear of many violations at all.

Roanoke, Virginia

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."

Rochester, New York

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 it’s best to ask than to take, so that’s what I do. I’m not the type that likes to take from you, so I ask you." Many others may be having their fines reduced.

Rochester’s panhandling law will also adversely affect the city firefighter’s drive for Muscular Dystrophy. Firefighters are considering other means to collect the funds, so they don’t have to "put police in an uncomfortable situation."

Sacramento, California

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 away. .
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."

Salem, Oregon

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 year’s lease. A local opinion columnist reported in August of 2004, that these residents are "one notch above homelessness."

Salem’s 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 don’t 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. We’re the eyes and ears; we’re there to discourage bad behavior."

Salt 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 were cited.

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 people’s warrants for public nuisance citations if the people charged agree to perform community service helping other homeless people.

San Bernardino, California

Day laborers who gather near the Home Depot on 21st Street and Highland Ave. say they have been unfairly targeted for violating city codes.

According to City Attorney James F. Penman, the police department has been hearing dozens and dozens of complaints for over a year.

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 Valles.

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 said.

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 plays out.

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.

San Diego, California

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 don’t interfere with local businesses and their customers." The partnership performs "welfare and wake-up" checks to keep people experiencing homelessness out of storefronts.

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 camps

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 aren’t 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 cannot afford.

"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. They’re being put in the middle of a very serious social problem."

San Jose, California

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.

San 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 programs.

Santa Barbara, California

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 Clerk’s office reports that none of these ordinances had been presented to the ordinance committee as of mid-August, 2004.

Santa Cruz, California

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.

Savannah, Georgia

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, Arizona

Scottsdale prohibits both public camping and public urination. A homeless Scottsdale woman was ordered not to wash her clothes in a public fountain.

Seattle, Washington

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" (AIA’s), 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 Seattle’s 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 city’s 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 Lord’s 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.

Sioux 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.

Sonoma County, California

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.

South 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 Sheriff’s 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 can’t afford housing, live out in the woods. It is their need to cook, and, since they don’t camp in a designated area, the safety measures just aren’t 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.

Spokane, Washington

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.

Springfield, Massachusetts

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. Michael’s 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. We’re 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 organization’s 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."

St. Augustine, Florida

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.

St. George, Utah

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 area.

Barr said police went through his belongings and confiscated his friend’s 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, Missouri

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 rulings.

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 lawsuit’s 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.

St. Petersburg, Florida

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, "I’m a vet. I’ve done my job." He also said, "The police harass me all the time… At least I’m not out there breaking into people’s 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. I’m not out here because I want to be." City rules already ban panhandling in certain areas.

Suffolk, Virginia

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.

Syracuse, New York

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 books.

Tacoma, Washington

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 city’s 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 couldn’t 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.

Tallahassee, Florida

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.

Tampa, Florida

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.

Tempe, Arizona

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 and restaurants.

Toledo, Ohio

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 council’s recent formation of a homeless task force is a positive move for this city.

Trenton, New Jersey

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.

Tucson, Arizona

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.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

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.

Union City, California

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?''

Venice, California

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.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

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.

Washington, 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 for panhandling.

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.

Woodinville, Washington

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 County’s 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. Brendan’s 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 Heritage School.

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 Church’s 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 City’s 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, "We’re concerned. No one likes to be sued. We think we’ve done the right thing for Woodinville. Hopefully the decision on the temporary restraining order is the first indication that we’re 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 Citizen’s 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 city’s 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.

Full 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