Legal Research

“Forced into Breaking the Law”: The Criminalization of Homelessness in Connecticut

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School has released a new report titled “Forced into Breaking the Law”: The Criminalization of Homelessness in Connecticut. The report examines how Connecticut’s homeless residents face the threat of criminal sanctions for simply existing. The report also documents how Connecticut city ordinances, such as those prohibiting loitering, panhandling, and sleeping in public, punish people for performing necessary, life-sustaining functions, which effectively criminalizes homelessness itself. It further outlines how the criminalization of homelessness violates state, federal, and international law.

The release of the report coincides with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and the launch of the national “Housing Not Handcuffs” campaign, organized by National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which aims to end the criminalization of homelessness. Read more

Decriminalizing Homelessness: Why the Right to Rest Act is the High Road for Oregon

April 5, 2017 – Oregon cities and counties are making it a crime for people to be homeless. Our new report, Decriminalizing Homelessness: Why Right to Rest Legislation is the High Road for Oregon, shows that basic acts of survival are being criminalized all across the state. 
 
Our research found that Oregon’s most populous cities and counties have 224 laws that criminalize necessary life-sustaining activities like sitting, lying, resting, or eating in public. When someone has nowhere else to do these things, fines, fees, and a criminal record only further entrenches them in homelessness. Oregonians living on the street are forced make impossible choices to go about their daily lives.

Updated and expanded – June 2016 California’s New Vagrancy Laws The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State

June 2016, the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley released an update on previous research report entitled “California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State.” The study documents the increasing criminalization of homeless people in California through local laws mimicking shameful vagrancy laws of past eras that targeted people of color, migrants, and people with disabilities. Clinic students from the law school and the school of public policy analyzed municipal codes in 58 California cities, where three-quarters of California’s homeless people reside. They also gathered public records and interviewed key stakeholders in a sample of cities to study enforcement practices across the state.

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TOO HIGH A PRICE / What Criminalizing Homelessness Cost Colorado

by University of Denver. Sturm College of Law Homeless Advocacy Policy Project

Like Most of America, Colorado Faces a homeless epidemic. Amidst a stark rise in housing cost and equally sharp drop in available housing, Colorado cities struggle to address the overwhelming needs of its homeless residents. While professing a dedication to eliminate homeless through homeless and poverty services, state actors continue to write, pass, and enforce local ordinances that criminalize life-sustaining behaviors. Laws that criminalize panhandling, begging, camping, sitting or lying in public, and vagrancy targets and disproportionately impacts residents that are homeless for activities they must perform in the course od daily living.

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Punishing the Poorest – How the Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty in San Francisco

“I have to hide like a dog at night.”
—Oscar, homeless in San Francisco
This report details the effects of criminalization on the homeless residents of San Francisco. Since 1981, San Francisco has passed more local measures to criminalize sleeping, sitting, or panhandling in public spaces than any other city in the state of California.1 During this same period, the United States has experienced the greatest expansion members of this society.2 This report documents and analyzes the impacts of the rising tide of anti-homeless laws in our era of mass incarceration on those experiencing homelessness in San Francisco.
This portrait of the impact of criminalization on homelessness in San Francisco is based on a citywide survey of 351 homeless individuals and 43 in-depth interviews carried out by volunteers at the Coalition on Homelessness and supervised by researchers at the UC Berkeley Center on Human Rights. It also analyzes data on policy, citations, and arrests received from the San Francisco Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office, the Human Services Agency, and the Recreation and Park Department. The report provides an in-depth analysis of each step in the criminalization of homelessness—from interactions with law enforcement, to the issuance and processing of citations, to incarceration and release. The study makes evident how criminalization not only fails to reduce homelessness in public space, but also perpetuates homelessness, racial and gender inequality, and poverty even once one has exited homelessness.

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California’s New Vagrancy Laws Report by UC BerkeleyLaw PDF
The growing enactment and enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State  

In February 2015, the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley released a research report entitled “California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State.”  (see flyer) The study documents the increasing criminalization of homeless people in California through local laws mimicking shameful vagrancy laws of past eras that targeted people of color, migrants, and people with disabilities. Clinic students from the law school and the school of public policy analyzed municipal codes in 58 California cities, where three-quarters of California’s homeless people reside. They also gathered public records and interviewed key stakeholders in a sample of cities to study enforcement practices across the state.

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Washington’s War on the Visibly Poor: A Survey of Criminalizing Ordinances & Their Enforcement

The Wrong Side of History: A Comparison of Modern and Historical Criminalization Laws

Discrimination at the Margins: The Intersectionality of Homelessness & Other Marginalized Groups

At What Cost: The Minimum Cost of Criminalizing Homelessness in Seattle and Spokane

The briefs on criminalization from the Seattle University School of Law’s Homeless Rights Advocacy Project is out!. In May 2015, the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project at the Seattle University School of Law released a series of four reports entitled “Washington’s War on the Visibly Poor: A survey of Criminalizing Ordinances and their Enforcement,” The Wrong Side of History: A Comparison of Modern and Historical Criminalization Laws,” “Discrimination at the Margins: The Intersectionality of Homelessness and Other Marginalized Groups,” and “At What Cost: The Minimum Cost of Criminalizing Homelessness in Seattle and Spokane.”  These four reports outline the many ways that homeless people in Washington are criminalized for necessary and life-sustaining activities, how these contemporary criminilzation ordinances are directly linked to historical criminalization and discrimination laws that were previously rejected on legal and policy grounds, how these ordinances target already marginalized homeless people and the exorbitant costs of criminalizing homelessness.

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