(A) Education and
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
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,
3) alerting the general public that rights lost to
any segment of our society are rights lost to all members of our society.
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
(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
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
4. All complaints delivered
to the City should be forwarded to the management or the entity hiring
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
(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
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
e. Immediate access to treatment on demand outside the criminal justice
f. Immediate access to treatment without first being incarcerated;
g. Immediate access to housing for all homeless people.
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