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VI. Conclusions and Recommendations

(A) Education and Communication

Monitoring and documenting arrests, citations, fines and harassment of homeless people allow advocates to present evidence of violations of civil rights, costs of incarceration to the public, and loss of opportunities for employment and housing for homeless people.

After being told by police officers, government officials, and business owners that they are public nuisances, homeless people can only recognize their personal and collective power when they see the impact of their efforts as a part of a national movement. Thus, the participation of people experiencing homelessness in national and local struggles is vital.

In addition, local groups who have been tirelessly fighting the effects of criminalization must communicate their struggles and victories with other groups, so all organizations can share information with each other and with the public. Public information campaigns must be geared toward:

1) alerting homeless and poor people that a new civil rights movement is building along with informing them of new and subtle dangers that currently exist,

2) alerting service providers to the serious effects of these laws, especially before the process of drafting law is in motion, and

3) alerting the general public that rights lost to any segment of our society are rights lost to all members of our society.

(B) Organizing for Change

Those most affected by injustice must play a leading role in local monitoring projects and collection of data, as well as collection of anecdotal evidence of activities to challenge local abuses.

Organizing homeless people to take action begins with extensive outreach, in which the input gathered directly from homeless people drives the working agenda. This outreach has four main purposes:

1) to provide information to poor and homeless people about their rights;

2) to record civil rights abuses, including police interaction with homeless people, through written and video documentation;

3) to provide information about opportunities for participation in the work force to affect change; and

4) to gather ideas, insights and opinions about solutions to poverty and homelessness.

Combining outreach, advocacy, direct action, and litigation with policy and program design produces permanent solutions to poverty and homelessness.

(C) Legal remedies

Homeless people and advocacy groups continue using the legal system to fight unconstitutional ordinances that criminalize life-sustaining activities performed, necessarily, in public. It is important to compile and share documentation of legal victories to strengthen our efforts.

The national maintenance of a database of ordinances and a cataloging of experiences is necessary for sharing efforts and resources.

Broadening the campaign to request the U.S. Department of Justice investigate patterns and practices of the civil rights violations of people experiencing homelessness, and including homelessness as a protected class or status when monitoring violence, are imperative.

(D) Security Guards

1. Cities should make it illegal for their police officers to wear official police uniforms while they are not on duty.

2. All security guards should be licensed by the local municipality with added scrutiny to those carrying a firearm. Homeless people should be easily able to file a complaint with the municipal government concerning the actions of guards. A guard or official system should be required to address these complaints in order to renew the license.

3. All security guards should wear identifying information including their city issued license number.

4. All complaints delivered to the City should be forwarded to the management or the entity hiring that guard.

5. Security guards in places that come into frequent contact with homeless people should be required to receive awareness training, as well training on the laws that apply to homeless people. Crisis intervention training for dealing nonviolently with mental illness conflicts is also recommended.

(E) Policy Remedies

1. Support the Bringing America Home Act, H.R. 2897-108th Congress, sponsored by U.S. Representatives Julia Carson and John Conyers. This bill includes provisions and funding that will end homelessness through additional housing, universal health coverage, universal livable income, treatment on demand, and civil rights assurances.

The Civil Rights Provisions of the Bringing America Home Act include:

A. A requirement under the selection criteria for HUD McKinney-Vento that communities receiving homeless assistance dollars must guarantee through formal certification they are not criminalizing homelessness through laws, ordinances or policies.

B. A requirement that cities receiving Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funds shall not pass ordinances that have a disparate impact on homeless people or that punish homeless persons for carrying out life-sustaining activities in public spaces when no alternative public spaces are available; or relating to curfews for adolescents and that result in homeless youths being adjudicated as delinquent.

C. A requirement that cities receiving CDBG and HOME funds shall not pass zoning ordinances and/or make zoning decisions have the effect of preventing the siting of facilities designed to serve people in homeless situations or low-income people.

2. All people should be assured access to affordable housing, health care, with treatment on demand, livable income, education and access to public and private accommodations, spaces, and services, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, age, gender, religion, familial status, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, health status, socioeconomic status, or housing status.

To assure those rights, we recommend acceptance and reiteration of the following values and principles:

a. Protected class designation for socioeconomic status;
b. The right to register and vote for homeless people;
c. Passage of "hate crimes" legislation using protected class status;
d. Immediate relief from harassment and arrest in every American city;
e. Immediate access to treatment on demand outside the criminal justice system;
f. Immediate access to treatment without first being incarcerated;
g. Immediate access to housing for all homeless people.

 

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