In Some Cities, Being Homeless Is A Crime

“They take away your means of survival.”

By Eric Shorey

America isn't exactly the best at dealing with our homeless population, or our mass incarceration problem. Unfortunately, these two crises are related in that in many places in the USA, being homeless itself is a crime, landing many citizens in jail or without any shelter whatsoever.

According to The New York Times, half of American cities have (and many more are working towards) banning "urban camping" (a coded way for police to bust up the meager living situations of many homeless people) in the hopes of decreasing the trafficking of drugs and crime. Unfortunately, without these paltry structures, many homeless people can not survive. 

While President Barack Obama had implemented a few measures to protect the homeless and discourage the criminalization of homelessness, President-Elect Donald Trump probably will not be as kind: “We’re quite concerned,” said Maria Foscarinis, the founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “No sooner do you win the battle than 10 other cities pop up criminalizing homelessness. The idea was if you could get the federal government on your side, you have a much broader impact.”

Different cities handle the problem with different strategies. San Francisco can remove sidewalk tents with 24 hours notice, for example. Until recently, it was actually illegal to serve meals in public parks in Philadelphia. 

Police in some cities have been caught on video confiscating blankets from the homeless:

“Now I don’t have a place to sleep tonight,” said Randy Russell to a police officer who was ticketing him for his tent. “You’re taking my home away from me.”

“They take away your means of survival,” added Jerry Burton, another homeless man in Denver.

[Photo: Getty Images]

Related Stories

Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content. 

You May Also Like...
Recommended by Zergnet