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Narratives of the Meanest Cities

#1 Little Rock, Arkansas

In February of 2004, homeless service providers recruited the police to assist in a count of the homeless population, and were assured when the question was asked, that the police would not use the knowledge of the locations of the camps to go back and clean the camps out. The police reassured the service providers they would not use the knowledge of the locations to do sweeps in the future. Several service providers showed the police where the camps were on a map, and a formerly homeless camper guided the police to camps that she knew of. A month later the providers started hearing that the city was going to do sweeps of these same camps.

A major effort was planned to remove homeless camps across the city. Police identified at least 27 areas in May 2004, which they wanted to target by issuing a 3-day notice to campers before sending in teams and code enforcement officers to clear out remaining belongings. The sweeps were expected to occur in June and locations for the proposed sweep included wooded camps, alleyways, abandoned buildings, and a parking deck. While sweeps occur at various times, most take place before major events. The opening of the Clinton Presidential Center in November seemed to be one such event that was a factor in the proposed displacements. According to Sandra Wilson, executive director of the Arkansas Supportive Housing Network, the city is attempting to remove homeless people from the downtown area to please businesses and to promote tourism. When Mayor Jim Dailey was asked whether the sweeps had anything to do with tourism, he said, "Absolutely," but also said that tourism was only one of many factors.

Local advocates called on the city to delay the sweeps until after a homeless outreach fair set for September 25, and explained there was not enough shelter room. Some shelter directors were also concerned they had not been alerted in advance of the proposed sweeps. The City assumed that homeless providers would go into the camps assisting the police and "help clean them out." The providers declined not only because they were not included in the process, but because there was nowhere they could have assisted the displaced in going, nor was there any plan in place by the City as to where they would go. Advocates withdrew support from the city by presenting a written resolution. However, city officials asserted the camps should be shut down sooner rather than later and stated their concerns of loss of public "credibility" if the sweeps were not conducted. In a surprising turn of events, the City called off the sweep in early August to "retool" the process less than a week before sweeps were to start. Advocates were pleased that the sweeps were postponed. "Hallelujah," said Sandra Wilson, the executive director of the Arkansas Supportive Housing Network, "I hope this means we can actually sit down with the city and work out a long-range plan. It really sounds like they’re committed to coming to the table and working with us."

Patty Lindeman, the founder of Hunger-Free Arkansas maintains, however, "the sweeps of the camps are nothing new," those sweeps are conducted on a routine basis. However, this was "the first time they [were] going to post legal notices."

In July of 2004, police raided a homeless camp during the day when most of the residents were absent. They went in without notice, postings, or warrants and as they searched, they threw property into the river. Sandra Wilson noted the raids occurred after the city had agreed to the process of a legal notice and a timeline. The homeless have also been told not to gather at picnic tables under the Broadway Bridge before or after local providers arrive to give out food because it is private property and it belongs to City Hall.

The Executive Director of the River City Ministry said the "ideal situation would be to have enough beds to at least give the homeless a place to go," and what he sees happening is "the resources that could be used to provide these beds are being used to police these camps."

A census by the Central Arkansas Team Care For the Homeless (CATCH) was released in August of 2004, and reported that the Central Arkansas homeless population has increased by 15% in three years.

A member of CATCH, which conducted a homeless census in conjunction with the police, said the City has also agreed to work with CATCH for a long-range plan, has offered $250,000 toward the establishment of a full-service day center, and is considering a nearby safe zone in which homeless people could camp. The member seemed very surprised and pleased that the plan to clear the camps was reversed. It also seems apparent that the considerable opposition from the community had an impact on the postponement of the sweeps. Some advocates expect that the old policies will resume after the topic is out of focus of the media.

On September 17, 2004 National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) wrote a letter to Mayor Jim Dailey.

Tulin Ozdeger, the Civil Rights Staff Attorney, said the NLCHP is "deeply troubled by recent news accounts that the City of Little Rock intends to embark upon a campaign of sweeps of areas inhabited by homeless Little Rock residents. NLCHP wishes to register its concerns regarding the harmful consequences such actions would have on the constitutional rights of these residents. Further, we urge you to work with local advocates and service providers to find a more constructive and effective way of approaching the problem of homelessness in your community."

"By conducting sweeps of areas where homeless people are living, the City not only places itself in jeopardy of being legally liable for illegal actions, but it does nothing to solve the underlying problem of homelessness. With inadequate housing options and shelter space, clearing out these areas only moves people from around to different locations. Instead, the City should aim to find solutions that will help homeless persons move permanently off of the streets and into self-sufficiency."

"Instead of pursuing measures that lead to civil rights violations and consequent costly and burdensome litigation, Little Rock should be dedicating more time and resources to developing jobs at a living wage, affordable housing, increased access to healthcare for low-income persons, and other solutions to homelessness."

Ozdeger concludes by stating, "NLCHP urges you to take this opportunity to do something constructive to help bring about an end to homelessness. Taking actions that violate the civil rights of Little Rock residents in need will not solve the problem of homelessness."

Mayor Daily has stated his impatience with the delays in getting the camps cleaned out. "I want these camps cleaned up, and I will say that loudly and clearly."

"We have to be trying to deal with the sensitivity issues of those who truly have needs, but as far as I’m concerned we need to run off those individuals who are the chronic homeless that don’t want services provided to the them" or who "expect they’re going to victimize the community with their panhandling or other crimes," Dailey said.

Dailey explains allowing certain camps would "send the wrong message" and draw more homeless people to the city, which he said is already viewed as accommodating.

He also said the city should consider requiring homeless people who benefit from city services to do chores such as mowing grass or picking up trash.

"If you’re not willing to do something for the community in exchange for the handouts that are given to you then you don’t belong here," Dailey said.

When asked by Sandra Wilson in a public forum about where homeless people would go, the Mayor replied, "I don’t know."

Andre Bernard, the city’s director of housing and development, said he expects case management teams to enter three or four camps shortly after the September 25 homeless outreach event on North Little Rock’s waterfront.

"You’ll probably see something happening within the next couple of weeks," Bernard said. "It may take some time to address all 27 (camps)."

Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, spoke on September 22 at a statewide homelessness conference in Little Rock. He said Little Rock needs to find a solution that’s not "punitive," but moves the homeless into the services they need.

On September 25, the Stand Down homeless outreach fair provided services to 800 homeless individuals. Five hundred volunteers assisted in the day’s activities.

One of the services offered at the outreach event was a homeless court where public defenders helped homeless people clear up their misdemeanor charges.

According to Estella Morris, program manager for the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs in Little Rock, "We have so many homeless clients who get charges for small things like vagrancy, loitering and things like that. A lot of it is nuisance charges that will make them afraid to apply for jobs."

Local homeless advocates report the Mayor and the City Manager have not backed away from going forward with the sweeps. The advocates speculate the sweeps will happen either before or shortly thereafter the November opening of the Clinton Presidential Library.

An "annual satirical stage show" put on by the Pulaski County Bar Association depicted officials "driving away helpless residents of the camps."

Beginning November 1, a 50-cent fare is planned on the Central Arkansas Transit (River Rail) streetcar that will travel through both Little Rock and North Little Rock. Advocates say the fare is intended to keep homeless people off the trolley.

#2 Atlanta, Georgia

In September of 2003, the Mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, issued an executive order prohibiting feeding people in public. The pretext offered for the order, that "feeding the hungry is a health hazard," angered local advocates including Anita Beaty. In spite of the fact the Mayor’s order lacked the legal authority to prohibit public feeding, the publicity surrounding the issue produced the desired results. Many church groups and individuals believed they faced arrest if they continued offering food in parks to hungry homeless people, so they discontinued the practice. However, Atlanta City Councilman Derrick Boazman and State Senator Vincent Fort resisted the order along with members of the Open Door Community, Concerned Black Clergy and the Task Force for the Homeless.

Mike Casey of the Open Door Community reports that homeless people are routinely criminalized in the city. Central Atlanta Progress, a downtown business organization, has for years pushed for policies and ordinances to rid the downtown area of homeless people. Representatives of CAP brag that arrests for "quality of life" ordinances have increased 239 % in the past year. These ordinances include prohibition against "urban camping" or sleeping outside, aggressive panhandling, and panhandling in most downtown areas.

The Atlanta "Downtown Ambassadors," a quasi-police force, continues to be a source of harassment to people experiencing homelessness. Every morning "Ambassadors" and police awaken homeless people at 6:45 a.m. An Atlanta Journal Constitution article reported that, "the wake-up crew is forceful and polite, but their job is to keep a lid on the homeless who use the streets as their bathroom and bedroom. It's a bit of downtown housekeeping to make the homeless problem more palatable for the well-scrubbed, who drive into town for the business day or to visit." Police say that the teams arrest perhaps one person a month but awaken approximately 30 people a day. Participants in the teams admit that they do little to "get people off the streets." Workers also pilot Tennant 4300 All-Terrain Litter [Vacuums], which suck up litter, including the "blankets and trappings" of homeless people, all before 8:30 a.m. when business employees go to work.

A homeless man was interviewed and said that "moonlighting cops working security for hotels harass the homeless" when they try to sleep at particular public parks. He was charged with disorderly conduct for sleeping in a park. "I can't be disorderly if I'm asleep," he said. "They dragged me off in handcuffs." The police officers justified this action by asserting that the disorderly conduct law is broad enough to include sleeping in the wrong place.

Mayor Franklin’s Commission to End Homelessness has raised $10 million for a 24-hour facility in the jail. Casey feels this facility will provide a political excuse for judges to "sentence" individuals to the shelter. The City’s policy is obviously to remove all services from the downtown area and sanction only the jail facility, called conveniently "The Gateway" as the central intake and tracking facility.

City Councilman Lamar Willis advocated for an extension of the panhandling ordinance to include all forms of begging within a "no-panhandling zone" covering the entire business district. Persons arrested three times for panhandling could receive up to six months in jail. Lenders in the hospitality industry promoted the zone to prevent panhandlers from asking conventioneers for money. The Council considered including panhandling "blue boxes" where people could panhandle within a certain zone. Debate around this ordinance appears to have stalled it.

During two months of 2003, the Task Force for the Homeless tallied arrests of homeless people from computer lists of people and charges. A shocking 1,100 to 1,400 homeless people were arrested for "status offenses" or "quality of life" citations each month.

Exclusionary zoning regulations also prevent the location of low-income housing and group homes in the downtown area. Local neighborhood groups are empowered to recommend applications or deny them. City Council can override these recommendations or use them for political cover.

A computer tracking system is required of all residential and supportive service providers using any public money in Atlanta. The tracking system impacts the way services are offered to homeless people, with the possibility of agencies sharing information that homeless people provide. The Task Force for the Homeless reports several incidents in which homeless people were excluded from service or shelter because of information shared by service providers.

The City of Atlanta plans to close shelters that currently house homeless women, children and families in spite of the fact that an average of 50 homeless single women and women with children wait in the Task Force offices nightly for a shelter bed.

#3 Cincinnati, Ohio

In the summer of 2003, the city of Cincinnati began threatening to remove people experiencing homelessness from underneath highway overpass bridges. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) first stated that the removal of these individuals was not permissible under existing laws, but later ODOT changed its position and sent a letter to the city stating that the city did have the authority to remove people from underneath overpasses.

The police began posting "No Trespassing" signs in July of 2003, giving individuals 72 hours to move from their encampments. In a response organized by homeless people living under one of the targeted bridges, local advocates, social service workers, and other supporters came to the homeless camps to protest this action and assist with relocation efforts. A local lawyer, Jennifer Kinsley, and the ACLU filed a temporary restraining order to keep the police from moving anyone at that time and postponing the sweeps for 30 days. Kinsley also filed a lawsuit against the City of Cincinnati charging that the City has a pattern of violating the rights of homeless people. As a result, the Cincinnati Police have changed their procedure and now always give notice of 72 business hours to individuals living in homeless encampments. Police also forward all trespassing notices to the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless (GCCH) so that individuals can be referred to the appropriate outreach workers.

In September of 2003, the City Council passed a resolution calling for the removal of all homeless people living under bridges and highway overpasses. While the police continued to follow the written procedure described above, this resolution encouraged the relocation of many homeless individuals who were camping in visible areas. The City of Cincinnati continues to target individuals camping in public spaces. Since the passage of the police trespassing notice policy in August 2003, 17 camps have been swept, affecting 43 separate individuals. Five people have had their camps swept twice.

In response to a proposed ordinance that would require panhandlers to wear a license, the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless proposed that the city hire an outreach worker to work with panhandlers to help them find alternatives to panhandling. Although the City rebuffed the request, Downtown Cincinnati, Inc. created such a post. Since September of 2003, DCI’s outreach worker has assisted 78 individuals in moving off the streets.

The City of Cincinnati renewed an aggressive panhandling ordinance in May of 2004 for two years, with a 5-4 vote. The ordinance forbids anyone from verbally asking for "money, goods or any other form of gratuity" after dark or before sunrise, within 20 feet of a crosswalk, in any public transportation vehicle or bus stop, within 20 feet of an ATM or bank entrance, from the operator of a motor vehicle or a person entering or exiting a motor vehicle, from a person waiting in line to enter a commercial establishment, or on private property without permission. The city created an ordinance in May of 2003 requiring panhandlers to obtain a permit for verbal solicitation. A panhandler considered aggressive or one who is caught panhandling without a license could face a $250 fine and 30 days in jail. These ordinances led police to arrest a homeless man on charges of improper solicitation after he asked a plainclothes officer for ten cents. According to Andy Erickson, of the GCCH, most of the panhandlers arrested are taken to jail because they cannot pay the initial fine. Police have made 155 arrests since the city council passed the license law.

In August of 2003, two homeless men who lived beneath a bridge were given no advance warning when their possessions were bulldozed to make room for parking for the City’s annual Riverfest event. Their situation was rolled into the above lawsuit, settled out of court, and the men were given financial restitution for the loss of their belongings.

#4 Las Vegas, Nevada

In a sweep conducted outside a branch office of the Salvation Army, police and Las Vegas Neighborhood Services personnel confiscated shopping carts that contained the personal property of about 20 homeless people. The shopping carts, said Duane Sonnenberg, coordinator of homeless services for the Salvation Army, were obstructing a handicap access ramp. Sonnenberg added that these shopping carts were considered stolen goods, as stipulated in a Las Vegas ordinance regarding the removal of shopping carts from commercial property. A spokeswoman for Las Vegas Neighborhood Services said that anyone who was present when the sweep occurred could have taken their property from the carts. However, no homeless people were there at the appointed time. They had not been given advanced warning of the sweep.

A judge agreed to dismiss charges against Gary Norris for panhandling. Norris received a ticket for sitting on a sidewalk and displaying a sign reading, "The Lord is My Shepherd."

It was reported in July of 2004 that the city attorney’s office is pushing to increase the amount of jail time imposed on repeat offenders of misdemeanors in the downtown area. Civil libertarians believe this course of action targets the homeless. In some cases, the plea agreements offered by the city attorney’s office relating to repeat offenses of "vagrancy" are being increased from 45 to 90 days in jail. Robert Langford, defense attorney for the accused, says, "It is the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard of, and the city taxpayers should be outraged." County Clark Sheriff Bill Young said such policies were meant to combat the "revolving door" syndrome in the criminal justice system.

It was reported in August of 2004 that the number of homeless persons in the city has increased 18 percent. This report has caused the city attorney to "crack down on homeless ‘criminals’" as part of a "downtown cleanup effort," according to a Fox TV affiliate. This is an effort to combat old policies, in which homeless people were let back on the street and then re-arrested for other offenses later.

Although Las Vegas is a "magnet" for homeless teens from across the nation, it was reported in August of 2004 that there are few places for homeless runaways to hang out, and that Metro police work hard to keep tourist areas like the Strip and Fremont Street free of panhandlers and homeless kids.

#5 Gainesville, Florida

City Commissioners tabled a proposal to build a temporary picnic pavilion where homeless people could eat free meals and voted unanimously to research ways the city should address homelessness.

A new panhandling ordinance greatly limiting the area where panhandling is allowed was complimented by a brochure that focuses on aggressive panhandling and explains the reasons that giving to panhandlers is bad. The Gainesville Public Safety Committee promoted the ordinance in February of 2004. The Florida Coalition for the Homeless responded by creating a one page handout about panhandling and addressing natural questions raised about giving money to strangers.

According to Jennifer Wiley, a local homeless advocate and journalist, Ed Braddy, a city commissioner, spoke in favor of the city’s tougher stance. He said, "If Gainesville becomes less hospitable to panhandlers and transients, then I’m ok with that." In addition, Braddy said, "I don’t want to give comfort to misery; sometimes tough love is called for." Sergeant Keith Kameg noted that, "Our panhandlers are criminals; we want to make Gainesville a safe community."

According to Arupa Chiarini-Freeman of the Home Van outreach organization, Gainesville laws make it essentially illegal to sleep if one is homeless. Homeless people are sometimes woken up three or four times a night and told to move on, or be arrested. People frequently sit in jail for weeks, or even months, on charges like open container or trespass. When their case finally gets to court they are sentenced to "time served."

Chiarini-Freeman notes Gainesville provides no public restrooms after sunset, and has ignored repeated requests by local service providers that adequate restrooms be installed. Despite the lack of restrooms homeless people are repeatedly arrested for public urination.

A petition has begun to stop the City Plan Board and City Commission from limiting the number of meals served by St. Francis House and the Salvation Army. The limit of 75 per facility would only address the needs of 5% of the local homeless population. According to advocate/journalist Wiley, this number represents significantly fewer meals than the St. Francis House has served in the past and is a serious limitation.

As there are insufficient shelter beds in Gainesville a number of homeless people live in the woods. In February 2003, at a training for counting homeless people the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, Inc. asked the Gainesville Police Dept. to send an officer to talk about safety issues, etc. when heading out into the woods. The entire gist of his "safety lesson" was to wear sterile latex gloves if you touch anybody who is homeless, and to carry a bottle of disinfectant with you to clean yourself off after any interaction with homeless folks. According to local homeless advocates, this is fairly typical of the lack of sensitivity by the local police toward homeless people.

In the spring of 2004, City Commissioner Long visited a homeless camp named Sweetwater Branch in the woods near SW Williston Rd. City Commissioner Long asked the residents what services they would want. Among those requested was a cleanup of the land to clear it of litter, much of which was dumped there illegally not by homeless people, but by residents of the surrounding area.

In June of 2004, a group of homeless persons were forced to relocate from a Sweetwater Branch camp without any assistance or suggested locations. The county sheriff's office became involved and took this action, reportedly at the private landowner’s request, after the property owner was appraised of "illegal activity on his land" and was asked if he had given permission for homeless people who were engaged in "illegal activity" to be on his land. A local homeless aid worker reported that the sheriffs took pictures of residents and arrested three people who had outstanding warrants. Some believe the eviction comes from sanitation and trash issues; it is also believed that a new housing development is planned for the land in question. Also, the sheriffs may have visited several camps and taken aerial photographs. It is assumed that the goal is to close these camps as well.

According to advocate/journalist Wiley, a campus Christian organization from the University of Florida that serves food and shares fellowship with homeless people on Friday evenings were asked to move from the Downtown Plaza, ostensibly to avoid conflict with a series of Friday evening concerts sponsored by the City of Gainesville. In February of 2003 these students were "kicked off" the steps of city hall, and relocated to the courtyard of the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Alachua County Poverty Reduction Director John Skelly was quoted as saying, "We need to take a hard look at how we’ve got services organized and how we can do a better job at it. Our population has been increasing dramatically, and so has the percentage of people at the bottom of the barrel. Raw numbers have grown, but our capacity to serve people has not grown." Skelly notes that there are only 100 to 150 beds available, while the homeless population is estimated at over 1000. Unfortunately, the City of Gainesville will most likely be forced to cut its funding for social programs in 2005 because of reductions in Community Development Block Grant funds.

#6 New York City, New York

Aggressive policing practices in New York City have not decreased during 2003/2004, and in fact, due to activities surrounding preparations for the Republican National Convention (RNC) significantly increased. Homeless New Yorkers are subject to being harassed by several law enforcement entities, including the New York City Police Department, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (covering subways, buses and transit facilities like Penn Station and Grand Central Station), Amtrak Police, Long Island Railroad Police, private security firms patrolling business improvement districts and the Department of Homeless Service police, which is a unit comprised of peace officers who can arrest and/or write criminal tickets within the shelter system, currently serving 38,000 homeless New Yorkers.

John Jones, a homeless New Yorker and leader of the Civil Rights committee at Picture the Homeless has been personally affected by getting tickets and arrested for violating ordinances banning sleeping on park benches and the subways, as well as for disorderly conduct for refusing to leave a public park. There are many rules in fact, rather than laws, that people are arrested for violating, but which end up leading to criminal records, Jones states. For instance, the fact that Central Park closes at 1:00 am is a rule, not a law. Falling asleep on a subway and taking up more than one seat is ticketed as "stealing a fare," while sleeping on a park bench is "misuse of park property." Tuesday and Thursday nights have become known as "sweep nights," and there is an increase in quality of life ticketing and breaking up of encampments.

Jean Rice, a homeless activist, Civil Rights leader and Board member of Picture the Homeless notes that business people or students are not arrested or ticketed for the same conduct as homeless New Yorkers, constituting an illegal police practice — selective enforcement. In Central Park, homeless people are arrested for drinking or camping, while concertgoers on blankets drinking wine in the same space are excused. Disorderly conduct is a frequently used charge, and is a mostly uncontestable charge, so it creates a real problem for people who want to defend themselves. The situation at Penn Station/Madison Square Garden also highlights this double standard. Many homeless people are harassed or ticketed for drinking in public. However, Penn Station is connected to Madison Square Garden, and people attending a Madonna Concert or basketball game are not held to the same standard. Similarly, commuters can buy a beer and drink it on the platform of the Long Island Railroad while waiting for their train.

Lynn Lewis, Co-Director/Civil Rights Organizer of Picture the Homeless, states the selective enforcement of laws used to target homeless people serves a political agenda to move homeless people from areas including public sidewalks and parks. There were significant ongoing sweeps in preparation for the Republican National Convention scheduled in late August, 2004. Even as early as January, 2004, the NYPD and MTA police were harassing and "sweeping" people experiencing homelessness in Penn Station. During the Convention, much of the area around Penn Station and Madison Square Gardens was shut down to traffic, and sometimes the public, in the security area. Homeless people and advocates for the homeless were concerned about the effect this might have on the homeless community, because there are many life-sustaining services for homeless New Yorkers in this zone, including drop-in shelters, soup kitchens, and the general delivery post office.

During the months preceding the RNC, Picture the Homeless conducted extensive surveys (more than 200), among homeless New Yorkers about interactions with the police, primarily in midtown Manhattan. Although a thorough analysis remains to be done, it is obvious that police harassment mostly occurs through issuing "Quality of Life" tickets against homeless people, often as a result of performing life-sustaining activities such as sleeping in the subway, on a bench or on the sidewalk. Many arrests are the result of warrants which in turn are often a consequence of not being able to pay the fines for Quality of Life tickets. Places known to be gathering spots for homeless people are regularly combed by warrant squads arresting people with outstanding warrants. The survey also documents several incidents of homeless and race-related insults, economic and racial profiling in public spaces (such as parks and trains stations) as well as police brutality.

Another problem the convention presented to people experiencing homelessness was tighter security, not only by the regular police and security forces, but also by the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security. We received reports of more frequent checking of ID’s and were told bags would be subject to search. Due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, police may now request ID on demand, and in New York City, police do not have to accept public assistance cards as an official ID, though it is government-issued, has a photo ID and requires a fingerprint to obtain one. The Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, which is the largest in the city, issued identification cards during the convention for volunteers and homeless people. The Bread of Life Program, which serves 500 people every Wednesday, closed during the convention, and the pantry gave people extra food the week before.

Convened by leaders of Picture the Homeless, over 40 service providers and advocacy groups gathered together with the Department of Homeless Services, the NYPD and RNC planners to minimize the negative impact of the RNC on people experiencing homelessness in a number of ways, in a campaign known as Operation Cardboard Box. As a result, we pressured the Post Office to expand the hours for General Delivery Pick up during the RNC, received a verbal commitment from the NYPD to accept public assistance benefits cards as photo ID and the name of a point person within the Homeless Outreach Unit to call if homeless New Yorkers experienced harassment during the RNC. Picture the Homeless believes that without the advance planning spearheaded by homeless New Yorkers there would have been a far greater negative impact on homeless New Yorkers by the RNC.

Picture the Homeless also created an alternative to shelter for New Yorkers who regularly reside outside in the RNC area by working with places of worship to provide sanctuary. Advocates worked with the city police commissioner to try to relax curfews in parks and other places in the city so displaced people could have somewhere to go during the convention. There was large amount of negative press, which was seen as an attempt to demonize homeless people, and allow the public to tolerate the expected mass arrests. During the convention parks were closed and swept by police after protesters were driven into the area. Homeless people may also have been affected by the indiscriminate mass arrests in which the police closed off streets and arrested all in the area.

Many day labor sites, several near homeless shelters, have been targeted by the police. NYPD issued homeless day laborers waiting for work near the Bedford Atlantic Men’s shelter in Brooklyn 228 summonses in 28 days. Complaints from the community about crimes in the area, references to traffic hazards are invoked in order to justify hitting "preventively" on day laborers with charges such as trespassing (even though people live in the shelter), loitering, disorderly conduct and impeding pedestrian traffic. Within the first week of Picture the Homeless members doing outreach at the site, one member was arrested, and another was issued a summons for standing on the sidewalk engaging in a conversation with the day laborers. Clearly, this ticketing policy is not enforced on other sidewalks with non-homeless appearing passersby.

The New York Police Department put an officer on trial in July of 2004, for refusing to arrest a homeless man who was sleeping in a parking garage in 2002. The officer’s attorney accused officials of punishing his client for "following his conscience" and says the officer "saw the homeless as people and showed them dignity and respect." The lawyer for the police department argued the officer’s personal beliefs are "completely irrelevant." However, others note the officer had previously arrested "vagrants" and had possibly had other concerns at the time that he did not arrest the man.

#7 Los Angeles, California

According to Frank Tamborello, of the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, the Los Angeles Police Department conducts "sweeps" to move homeless people out of various areas.

In May of 2003, the L.A. City Council approved a contract with Hanover Justice Group, Inc. for $60,000 for consultation on the issue of homeless people in downtown L.A. This group advised on a strategy of law enforcement pressure on homeless people to move them out of downtown Los Angeles.

Frank Tamborello reports the LAPD Legal Training Unit created a lesson plan on "Right of Privacy in a Temporary Shelter" relating to searches of homeless encampments. They determined if such temporary shelters as "cardboard condos" were located on public sidewalks, they were in violation of municipal ordinances and their tenants were subject to citation or arrest for loitering or blocking the sidewalk. These lawyers believed a search of a cardboard structure was legal in spite of the owner’s claim the cardboard was his "home" and therefore protected by the Fourth Amendment. They declared the owner "must show that the expectation of privacy is reasonable."

In Skid Row during the period January 1, 2003, to March 5, 2004, LAPD had made 1,424 arrests for violation of LAMC 41.18(d), which prohibits camping or sleeping on a sidewalk. 358 of those arrests were made in the first 64 days of 2004. Overall, from July 1, 2003, through March 31, 2004, there were 611 cases filed on 41.18(d) of a total of 867 "quality of life" offense cases filed in that period.

Frank Tamborello reports in spite of the enforcement of the law the number of encampments actually increased. Even when the number of cases filed increased, the number of encampments continued to increase. By December there were over twice the number of encampments as in May, in spite of 902 cases filed under the law in that time period.

Frank Tamborello also reports the policy has been coupled with "cosmetic changes" such as an extension of the winter shelter program that is now year round and the implementation of the Streets or Services (SOS) Pilot Program. This program offers homeless individuals an alternative to incarceration by providing a one-time "opportunity" to enroll in social services

The city council passed an ordinance making it illegal to urinate or defecate in public, promising more public toilets would be built where needed. If a violator is near a public toilet, a $1,000 fine will be issued.

In December of 2003, the city razed a temporary encampment where about 100 people lived. Los Angeles Police Department had posted notices warning the camp would be dismantled and offered beds in shelters. Four displaced homeless people accepted the offer. The camp was broken up at the request of local businesses.

In August of 2004, it was reported Los Angeles County inmates with medical problems were being forced to sleep on jailhouse floors because of severe overcrowding and staff shortages. One inmate who was forced to sleep on the floor, without a pad or a blanket, was Mitchell Hart, who had been arrested for panhandling at a freeway off-ramp. Hart is missing his left arm. He reportedly said, "I thought since I’m handicapped, I should have been given a bed," and, "They treat a dog better."

The Los Angeles City Library Commission voted 3–1 to alter the municipal code that states people can be on "limits of library" from 10 p.m. —5 a.m. They want to change that to 9 p.m. — 9 a.m. because librarians feel uncomfortable stepping over homeless people who are sleeping in the doorway of the public library. This recommendation will go to the full City Council.

Some homeless advocates called the proposed law counterproductive. "It’s just one more example of being short-sighted, and rather than being proactive in the community in providing safe places for people to sleep, you criminalize the activity," said Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness (LACEHH).

The LACEHH has joined with the American Civil Liberties Union and many other groups to create a Jails Advocacy Task Force. This Task Force will focus on creating effective discharge planning. Thirty-five thousand people are released from the L.A. County Jail every year. A bus route runs every hour on the hour from the release point directly to Skid Row. And then the police do sweeps, arresting people who are around other parolees–a violation of their parole.

#8 San Francisco, California

In a two month period, the San Francisco Police Department issued over 3,500 citations for illegal lodging and used the threat of citations to keep countless others from sleeping, eating, and sitting in public places. In 2003, the San Francisco Police department issued 10,570 "Quality of Life" citations not including illegal lodging.

A new anti-panhandling law (Proposition M), passed in November of 2003, it went into effect at the end of May 2004. This law "tightens" the rules of panhandling and defines aggressive panhandling for the city. While aggressive panhandling was already illegal, this law will tighten restrictions against panhandling near ATMs, traffic dividers, and highway ramps.

Police and outreach workers are now asking panhandlers to move along.

But according to Hilda Kissane, a local resident who works across from City Hall on Van Ness as an assistant manager for the San Francisco Symphony, "The only trouble is that all I have to do is walk a couple of blocks way, and there they all are."

Due to the passage of Proposition M, Mayor Gavin Newsom said he will continue to direct police and outreach teams to keep telling homeless people what the law says —and each time they do so, to also offer whatever help they need to get off the street and into housing.

The Mayor also has city workers clearing benches and planters to the edges of Market Street to make the walkways wider, and putting up portable barriers in spots where homeless people have traditionally clustered to keep them away.

The Proposition M patrols began in the spring of 2004, with officers simply chatting with homeless people, telling them the ordinance officially took effect May 25. Then in the summer of 2004, they started handing out written warnings, called "admonishments," and telling homeless people if they saw them panhandling again in the same day, they would get a citation issued.

The "admonishments" carry no penalty and were created by Prop M. The citations can result in arrest and sentences of three months of community service or jail time if a person gets three in a year.

Police Deputy Chief Greg Suhr said officers have written 1,000 admonishments, but just nine citations since Prop M began. Nobody has been arrested.

In October 2004, teams of police and outreach workers increased their patrols along Market Street–deliberately walking its full downtown length three times a day, with street cleaners on motorized sweeps following along. The main job of the street cleaners is to clean the streets. But a byproduct of the patrols is to force anyone sleeping or sitting on the sidewalk to move.

Homeless advocates have complained since the spring of 2004, spraying down streets is harassing sidewalk sleepers. And while they applaud Newsom’s reluctance to jail panhandlers, they doubt the street crackdown will have any permanent effect.

L.S. Wilson, Jr. of the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco, said, "Everyone knows those people who get moved are just going a few streets over."

The stated plan of the city is to begin providing treatment through the criminal justice system. Instead of going to jail, offenders will be visited by social workers with the hope of being transferred into alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs. However, Wilson, Jr. believes these programs may simply be displacing other people who are already on the waiting list for such facilities. In other words, programs needed by people on a voluntary basis are only offered to those people if they are arrested.

The city also launched a welfare reform measure after it was passed in November of 2002. The program, known as "Care Not Cash’ reduces cash welfare payments in favor of permanent housing. The California Supreme Court denied the appeal of the measure on July 21, 2003, and so the program remains in effect.

According to L.S. Wilson, there is a Department of Public Works program known as "Operation Tenderloin Scrub Down," which uses water trucks with water cannons to wash down the city’s sidewalks two and three times a day. If homeless people are not moving fast enough they may get sprayed, and their belongings may get wet.

A San Francisco police officer noted the possible futility of criminalization programs when he commented that, "They don’t disappear, they just go from one area to another, a lot of them. You wake them in one area; you’ll go to another area and get another call on them. So you’re just moving them all day long." San Francisco police officers in the Tenderloin district report that many of the complaints they handle in a day refer to the homeless.

#9 Honolulu, Hawaii

At the end of May 2004, the State of Hawaii adopted one of the nation’s severest penalties to discourage people from living on public property. Act 50, which relates to criminal trespassing, charges an individual with criminal trespass in the second degree if the person enters or remains on public property after receiving a written request to leave. The law makes it de facto illegal to live on public property and bans individuals for a year from public areas where they are cited. Violation of the ban can lead to arrest and a $1000 fine or up to 30 days in jail. State Senator Robert Bunda, who introduced the law, says that it is directed at squatters who have lived on the beaches of Mokule’ia; however, the law applies statewide and makes no specific reference to Mokule’ia. Governor Linda Lingle, who signed the law, instead hopes to deal with the homeless population by supporting affordable housing.

In 2003, barbed wire was placed under highway bridges and around the Nimatz viaduct to exclude homeless people. A television news source reports the strategy "hasn’t worked."

There is a State Park’s policy for their maintenance workers to take the belongings of homeless people if left unattended. That means the people living in the park who work are most of risk of losing all of their belongings on a regular basis.

In Waianai Beach homeless people had their belongings (e.g. tents, clothes, kids’ toys) bulldozed into the ground by Parks employees working in conjunction with the police.

The number of homeless people in Ala Moana Park is rising, and many of the shelters are either full or near capacity with people camping in the park. Some residents fear the homeless are monopolizing certain areas by publicly urinating and abusing drugs in the restrooms. Either way, police estimates show 50 people illegally camp in the park every night. Police have not issued tickets because they do not wish to push the problem around, but to solve it. "How long," Governor Lingle asked attendees of the 2004 annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, "will condos across from Ala Moana Park retain their $750,000 value if the homeless people in the park multiply and seek shelter on the other side of the boulevard? How long will the tourists come when they find homeless people living on the beach? How long will shops along Fort St. Mall survive when the benches are removed because homeless people are using them?"

#10 Austin, Texas

A group of social service agencies launched the "Real Change" initiative in January of 2004 to discourage people from giving spare change to panhandlers. Instead, the suggestion is that people who want to help the poor should donate their time or money to local service providers. Richard Troxell, of House the Homeless, opposed the campaign. "It gives the impression that all people have to do is ask for services and they will get them," said Troxell. "The reality of it is just the opposite. We have a desperate need for social services, including substance abuse treatment and health care."

Joel Rhodes, a homeless veteran, was pronounced not guilty of violating the "no camping" ordinance in December of 2003. The presiding judge said the language of the law was too vague to enforce judiciously. He also said that what the law made illegal, namely "sleeping" and "the laying down of bedding for the purposes of sleeping," were lawful acts.

Police have been hassling homeless people who sell a street newspaper called the Austin Advocate, a newspaper article reported. One vendor, Robert Stevenson, was issued a $250 ticket for "begging in a public place." Upon further inquiry, it was discovered that no such offense exists. The charge against Mr. Stevenson, an 81-year-old man and veteran of WWII, was subsequently dropped.

#11 Sarasota, Florida

In Sarasota during the past two years there have been three bans passed which are specifically targeted at their homeless population: one against camping, one against public defecation, and a panhandling ban, advocate Sandy Baar reports. According to Baar homeless persons have been regularly convicted. In January of 2004, it was reported 217 people had been arrested in 2003 under Sarasota’s anti-camping ordinance.

According to Baar, there is a newly established exclusionary district of a 6-mile radius in downtown, which prohibits new social services. It does not, however, throw out the existing social services, but it is trying simply to create a certain kind of downtown.

Baar reports the bay-front sweeps of a colony of people who live on houseboats has continued.

In addition, in August of 2004, the city passed an ordinance regulating large groups that gather in parks, requiring permits and insurance. A group that feeds the homeless, "Gift From God," had been criticized previously for feeding homeless people in the park and leaving litter. Supporters of the law say it will help prevent abuses of the park. However, the head of the group says he will apply for a permit to serve there.

#12 Key West, Florida

City Manager Julio Avael recommended a plan in December of 2003, to fingerprint and photograph homeless people sleeping in city streets and parks. Avael signed an executive order instructing police officers to carry out the plan before he brought it to the attention of the city commission. Several commissioners stated they were not in favor of the program. Assistant City Manager John Jones claimed the program would help keep homeless people from trespassing after being banished from city property. Civil liberties groups objected to the proposal, pointing out the city has no legal right to fingerprint homeless people who have not been accused of a crime. As of February 2004, the commissioners had not vetted the plan, but were still discussing the issue. However, in August 2004, John Jones reported the plan had been "scrapped" and the only photographing of homeless persons was for a free bus pass, in which the photographing was similar to that of a regular identification card.

It was reported in January 2004, the landmark 1988 Pottinger case originating in Miami had placed restriction on the city’s ability to remove homeless people from city streets and parks unless there is an alternate place to send them, such as a shelter. This decision was made after the city had "essentially banned" homeless people from an area that included famous tourist bars, hotels, and restaurants.

Homeless people had taken to living in the mangrove wetlands of the area, but the area has been declared an endangered wetland. Interestingly, Avael promoted a plan in 2003, in which homeless people would be allowed to sleep in these wetlands, until a "safe zone" is created, but the plan encountered criticism from citizens. The city decided to enforce an ordinance that prohibits anyone from trespassing in endangered wetlands, after it was reported to have "gathered dust" because of the restriction on removing people. In addition to the concern for the wetlands, the city is also concerned with its appearance as a tourist-friendly location. Police issued warnings to people sleeping in the area and then forced them out two days later issuing tickets and threatening arrest.

Without legal authority, Key West police raided and dismantled a homeless camp before a passed ordinance took effect. "That [raid] is certainly not sanctioned by the police department or my office," said Julio Avael.

A homeless "safe zone" was proposed for Monroe County in January of 2004. The proposed zone would be located behind the jail and near a landfill and would be in place "by the end of [2004]." Assistant City Manager John Jones expected the camp to accommodate 120 people, but expected fewer to camp there. He noted, "This is the only area right now that everybody agrees to put them, except the people we’re going to be putting there." He also said the City "came up with different places to put them, out of the way, which raised a real furor. Nobody wants them in their back yard. Nobody." However, Jones also noted police were not able to move persons sleeping on public land (aside from areas of special concern, such as the wetlands) without providing another place for them to go; this policy may have changed after the initiation of the "safe zone." Monroe County voted in March of 2004, to approve the "safe zone." The City and County will share the $120,000 construction cost. A newspaper article notes anyone found sleeping on public land would now be required to go to the zone, go to jail, or leave the island.

The City of Key West and Monroe County opened the 120-bed tent city on July 1, 2004. The facility has four military tents, several washers and dryers, and about a dozen private showers and baths. The Safe Zone is located right next to the county jail. A separate portable shower facility is located adjacent to the Key West Police Department. Rules at the facility call for people to leave the shelter with their belongings every day by 7:30 a.m., and check in at 7 p.m.

In August of 2004, John Jones said the city is concerned about the lack of affordable housing in the area, but he is happy some of those camping in the wetland have been able to find care. However, Jones worries about the island’s physical capacity to house new campers this winter. Many campers are attracted by the same characteristics that "[drive] the crucial winter tourism," according to a February 2004 article. Jones noted the island is very small.

Key West reportedly has few emergency shelters. In previous years, it had promoted a failed plan to send homeless people to shelters in Miami.

It was reported in February of 2004, a law concerning panhandling was legislated in 2003 and went into effect for the Duval Strip and Mallory Street, severing a main source of sustenance for the homeless and leading to a number of arrests.

#13 Nashville, Tennessee

In late fall of 2003, numerous citations were issued to homeless people for "disorderly conduct." However, the reason for one citation read "subject has an army issue pack sac and sleeping bag on the wall at the Church Street Park." Another citation read, "Subject seen by officer blowing snot out of nose onto sidewalk plaza."

The Nashville Homeless Power Project reported that it expected criminal citations and arrests to increase significantly in April of 2004, at the end of "Room at the Inn," a winter shelter program.

Matt Leber expects it is likely that Councilman Jameson will file in September of 2004, for the first reading of an ordinance prohibiting panhandling in the nighttime, panhandling in certain areas, and aggressive panhandling.

#14 Berkeley, California

Police cracked down with renewed vigilance in Berkeley, as arrests of homeless people increased sharply in August and September of 2003. The Berkeley Police Department made 87 arrests in a two-week period of which 34 were for trespassing. Officers also illegally searched homeless youths for no apparent reason and enforced nonexistent laws, specifically targeting people because they appear homeless. Instead of addressing these civil rights abuses, Mayor Tom Bates raised awareness by sleeping outside for a night with homeless people.

A 2004 report by Suitcase Clinic Legal Services describes incidents where the police rousted people during rainstorms and on cold nights and forced them out of temporary shelters on the grounds they were trespassing. At the same time, the report cites an incident in which a mother and son were forced out onto the street because there were no shelters in the city that would house them. High-ranking city officials and local providers got together to help her find a home and could not find one. Police issued the woman over 12 tickets for sleeping on the sidewalk thereafter.

#15 Dallas, Texas

Empowered by an anti-solicitation ordinance passed in March of 2003, the Dallas City Council was geared up to pass two new ordinances in 2004 that would adversely affect poor and homeless people. The first proposal targets persons carrying personal belongings in a shopping cart, and it passed. A local reporter commented on the ingenuity of homeless people in the area who began constructing their own carts to escape punishment. The second proposal would allow only one centralized location for organizations to provide free food, and according to city officials it had not passed as of August 2004. A newspaper article in August 2004 reports that agencies have been pressured to stop feeding the homeless in a parking lot across the street from the library. The feedings now take place at the Day Resource Center, which, the reporter states, was not designed for that purpose.

In her mayoral race Laura Miller urged a ban on panhandlers and prompted police officers "to go over and enforce the law" on panhandlers standing across from a local 7-Eleven. In July of 2004, an "investigative" television news team reported that this law is not being enforced as fully as it could be. In the twelve months prior, the police had issued 4,800 citations for panhandling but had made only one arrest. However, those receiving citations are apparently still being asked to pay a fine. Many people cited have not paid their fines.

Citizens of Dallas passed only half of the original funding proposed for a 24-hour homeless shelter. At the same time, $11 million was passed for an animal shelter.

The Mayor of Dallas is quoted in a newspaper article saying, "For a while I would roll down my window and yell at them (the homeless) to get off the streets." The same article stated that 258 arrests had been made and six campsites were destroyed and relocated. Police officers in cities that surround "anti-panhandling" cities such as Dallas say the laws have forced panhandlers to migrate around North Texas. This may have fueled the drive for the new anti-panhandling ordinance in Denton.

The new version of Dallas’s "Downtown Advisors" program, run by the Downtown Improvement District, directs tourists and is currently primarily composed of a "hospitality team." The Team is being trained in how to conduct morning sweeps to roust the homeless out of doorways and intervene when panhandlers confront downtown patrons. The new team will be in action by mid to late September, 2004.

A March, 2004 newspaper article noted there is a lack of enforcement of aggressive panhandling laws by police, but enforcement by private security officers, or "rent-a-cops" is high. This practice is the result of the idea that the public will not challenge such enforcement. The street newspaper that had monitored some of the civil rights abuses in the city went out of business in 2003.

It was reported that, after being coerced to move by the city, and after services relocated, homeless people have moved to a location very close to City Hall. Homeless people near City Hall said they were followed from place to place, honked and yelled at by the police to keep on moving, and rousted from steps. In late August 2004, a "roundup" was conducted in which hundreds of homeless people were awakened at between 4 to 5 a.m. Six people were arrested for having outstanding warrants. Officers conduct similar sweeps two times a month and arrest people after they have been cited three times for sleeping in public.

#16 Fresno, California

In June of 2004, it was reported the city council moved forward to build an outdoor "drunk tank" with a chain-linked, razor wire fence, in which persons would be put on public display for being intoxicated. The city said it is an "innovative" method of saving money. Advocates such as Liza Apper, question the safety of an outdoor facility where temperatures can reach 112 degrees in the summer and there is little planning for restrooms and adequate medical attention. It also appears, according to the Street Spirit newspaper, that Fresno taxpayers will be sponsoring the Rescue Mission, but a Christian group is staffing the location, to proselytize those placed inside. The city has defended its creation, saying it will prevent people from going to jail when drunk and save city money. In addition, advocates feel certain this is intended solely for the homeless community, as it is built in a poor area. The city council denied this.

The city is attempting to revitalize itself, which, Apper states, has often resulted in the poor getting pushed out. People who attend the Catholic Worker House’s soup line report being arrested, in downtown Fresno, for sitting on walls (loitering), sleeping outside (trespassing), and possessing a shopping cart (stealing). An anti-panhandling law was backed by a public relations campaign to stop people from giving to panhandlers. The public was reportedly told homeless people would use the money to buy drugs and alcohol.

According to Apper, there were two separate sweeps of homeless encampments. One was in front of service provider and the other sweep occurred several blocks away on H St., in the downtown area. Approximately 300-400 people resided in the first encampment and another 100 people resided on H St. City workers under the supervision of the Fresno Police Department threw all of the tents and personal belongings in front of the service provider away. The city had notified the residents of this encampment using flyers and posted signs; but had kept the exact day and time of their "raid" a secret, therefore taking the people by surprise giving them no time to gather their belongings. CalTrans workers with no prior warning destroyed the H St. encampment.

One of the missions now has a "Tent City" where 44 people can stay. At first, those wishing to stay there had to show a photo id and be fingerprinted. Now people wanting to live in this "tent city" must be "voted in" by the current residents. Still, this only serves a fraction of the original encampment population.

Apper maintains the city, under redevelopment, does not want to see or deal with the homeless.

Longs Drugs Stores in Fresno bought a K2000 device, which locks the wheels of a shopping cart after it is taken 100 yards beyond the front door of the store.

Recently some of the advocacy groups for the homeless, Food Not Bombs, St. Benedict Catholic Worker and the Sleeping Bag Project have formed a coalition and are meeting to discuss ways in which they can support the homeless community in Fresno and stem the tide of "meanness" that seems to be overtaking city attitudes and policies toward the homeless and poor.

#17 San Antonio, Texas

Police are sometimes unfair in their enforcement and frequently harass homeless people. They regularly issue multiple tickets for loitering, panhandling, and public drunkenness, reports local legal advocate Ana Novoa. Tickets are also issued for jaywalking, sleeping in the park and urinating in public, which is often categorized as "illegal disposal of waste" or "littering." Homeless people in San Antonio are especially singled out for jaywalking, something she says everyone does, but only homeless people seem to be ticketed for. The clinical program is often able to convert the tickets from fines -- which the clients cannot pay -- to a community service sentence, or to have the tickets thrown out altogether. Arrests also occur on occasions when the city is having a special event, such as the Cinco de Mayo festival.

San Antonio merchants are proposing a crackdown on urban camping and panhandling. In April of 2004, City Councilman Roger Flores Jr. offered proposals to ban "aggressive panhandling," including soliciting donations at intersections, sitting or lying on sidewalks, camping in parks, and urinating in public. An employee of one of the city’s largest service providers said, "If you don’t have an alternate place for these people, I don’t know how effective [the ordinance would be]." The office of Councilman Flores reported none of the ordinances had been passed as of August 2004.

In contrast, Councilwoman Patti Radle offered a proposal in August 2004, of a "Compassion Zone," in which people would be free from the aforementioned restrictions, so there would be a place for people to go to escape being harassed by the police. "The people have a constitutional right to panhandle," she said on a local radio station. Radle is a long-term poverty worker and advocate for homeless rights. Councilman Roger Flores said Radle’s "heart is in the right place," but he questions her suggestion. He said that the council should not give homeless people special rights to camp that are not provided to "ordinary citizens." Radle also proposed the creation of "compassion cards" with suggestions of where to go to find help, shelter, and meals.

#18 Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Laws combined with intense enforcement create a "hostile situation that is almost overwhelming," reports shelter director Holly Gardemier in Milwaukee. The laws against loitering, panhandling, and sleeping outside are strongly enforced in areas where homeless people frequent, but not in other areas. Gardemier says individuals waiting for the feeding areas to open are often ticketed for loitering. The panhandling laws have succeeded; there is now almost no downtown panhandling. "Obstruction of public access" is a charge commonly used, a charge which can cover many areas.

Last year’s report, Illegal to be Homeless: The Criminalization of Homelessness in the U.S. (August 2003) spotlighted St. James’ Church because it had been declared a public nuisance for allowing people to sleep on its property. A year later, though city efforts have not been stepped up, they have not stopped either.

The city systematically closed all encampments under bridges and rousted an encampment in a public park on a frigid February morning. There are a few encampments remaining, but Gardemier feels it is only a matter of time before they too, are targeted. The city has no plan to deal with the displaced people after the sweep and the shelters are turning away people every night, Gardemeir states. Advocate Joel Volk disagrees, noting that homeless advocates are usually contacted before sweeps, so the individuals can be placed in some sort of shelter.

#19 St. Paul, Minnesota

Advocate Fred Woods reports police conduct sweeps of outdoor encampments on a bi-weekly basis, breaking up camps, and throwing away belongings. Woods also states, police have taken ID’s of loitering individuals and were not giving them back, creating a huge problem for individuals with no resources to obtain another ID.

Downtown business security patrols and police strictly enforce the anti-loitering and trespassing laws, especially in the skyways.

#20 Manchester, New Hampshire

Advocate Cindy Carlson reports police enforce laws arbitrarily against homeless people in Manchester. For example, people found publicly urinating might be cited for a sex offense–like indecent exposure. Homeless people commonly receive citations for sleeping in public/or park curfew violations, public lounging and storage of property on public property. These laws, Carlson states, are enforced strictly against homeless people because people who do not appear homeless will not be cited for lounging or public storage. Police also regularly check ID’s and search bags of homeless people.

There is a downtown bus station (now called a "welcome center") that has an overhang roof. On bad weather days many of the homeless people gather there on park benches. These benches have now been removed. Ironically, the park is named Veterans Park.

Consistent harassment of people in encampments pushes the camps further into the woods, making it difficult for service providers to reach those in need. A new criminal justice block grant, the "Weed-and-Seed" program, seeks to "weed out" the "bad" people by tearing down underbrush and trees camouflaging homeless encampments.

Carlson notes that sweeps occur every time there is an event at the Verizon Civic Center, which is located only a few blocks from major homeless service providers. Police move people along, and former havens by the river are now being cleaned up as a new walkway is being put in. A cemetery where many homeless people stayed is now refurbished, making this haven off limits as well.

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