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A Dream Denied:
The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities


Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, with outreach and organizing work by NCH’s National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project (NHCROP).

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) would like to thank the following NCH board members, NCH staff, and interns who contributed greatly to the research, writing, and layout of the report.  

NCH thanks Laura Searfoss (James Madison University - VA’06) and Steve McCrossan (University of North Carolina at Wilmington -‘06), who researched and co-edited the narratives and constructive alternatives sections, Mickey Hubbard (Davidson College-NC), who researched the prohibited conduct chart, Laura Dallas (Rhodes College-TN), who provided training and advisement, and Natalie Khorochev (University of California at Berkeley), who researched and wrote narratives, and Elizabeth Venable (University of California-Riverside - '09), who conducted research for the narratives and public relations work for the release of the report.  She was the co-editor of NCH's Illegal to Be Homeless: The Criminalization of Homelessness in the U.S. report published in 2004.

NCH also thanks Anita Beaty and Brian Davis, Co-Chairs of NCH’s Civil Rights Work Group, who provided guidance in the production of this report from beginning to end.  NCH also gives thanks to the members of NCH’s Civil Rights Work Group/Grassroots Organizing Committee, who met monthly via conference call over the past year.  These members provided input about the civil rights abuses that were happening in their respective cities/states.  Michael Stoops, Acting Executive Director of NCH, served as an advisor and co-editor.  NCH also would like to thank the numerous advocates, NCH Board Members, and friends across the country for their feedback and support, without which this report would not be possible.

NCH also thanks Division of Church and Society, World Hunger, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Presbyterian Church (USA)/National Ministries Division, and Sidney Stern Memorial Trust for their financial support of this project.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) would like to thank all of the people who contributed to this report.

NLCHP thanks Emily Zarins of Covington & Burling, who researched and drafted a significant portion of the case summaries section of the report, and NLCHP interns Brooke Kirkland, a third-year student at the University at Buffalo Law School, Morgen Smith, a third year student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Jewel Baltimore, a third-year student at the George Washington University School of Law, for their contributions to the case summaries, human rights overview, and trends in criminalization sections of the report. 

NLCHP gives a special thanks to Vibha Bhatia, NLCHP Office Manager, who compiled and formatted the report and Meagan Leatherbury, NLCHP Program Assistant, who helped compile statistics for the report.  Tulin Ozdeger, NLCHP Civil Rights Staff Attorney, oversaw the project and conducted research, drafting, and editing for the report.  Rebecca Troth, NLCHP Legal Director, and Maria Foscarinis, NLCHP Executive Director, provided editorial assistance and guidance. 

NLCHP also thanks the Oakwood Foundation, Anonymous Donors, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation for their financial support.

This report is dedicated to the memory of Rosa Parks.  Her spirit sparked a movement that will never perish.

HOME | FULL REPORT (pdf) | Acknowledgements | Executive Summary | I. Trends in the Criminalization of Homelessness | II. Criminalization Measures Violate Constitutional Rights | III. Criminalization Measures Violate Human Rights Norms | IV. Constructive Alternatives to Criminalization | V. T op 20 Meanest Cities | VI. Meanest Cities’ Narratives | VII. Other Cities’ Narratives | VIII. CASES: Challenges to Restrictions on Sleeping, Camping, Sitting or Storing Property in Public Place [FEDERAL] [STATE] | Challenges to Anti-Begging, Anti-Soliciting and Anti-Peddling Laws | Challenges to Vagrancy, Loitering and Curfew Laws | Challenges to Restrictions on Feedings | Miscellaneous | IX. Prohibited Conduct Chart | X. APPENDIX:Survey Questions | Sample Know Your Rights Card | Sources for City Narratives |