11.07.2018

Why turning homelessness into a crime is cruel and costly

As the number of people facing homelessness increases, local residents are demanding that their elected officials do something about the homeless people they encounter in their daily lives. The leaders of cities, towns, and suburbs are often responsive. But more often than not, municipalities don’t address the underlying problems that cause homelessness by, say, providing sufficient permanent housing, affordable housing, or shelters with minimal barriers to entry. Instead, criminalizing homelessness is growing more popular. Over the last decade, city-wide bans on camping in public have increased by 69 percent while city-wide panhandling bans rose by 43 percent, according to the National Law Center on Law professors  from US universities encourage cities, suburbs and towns to avoid punishing people who live in public and have nowhere else to go. One big reason: These “anti-vagrancy laws” are counterproductive because they make it harder to escape homelessness.

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