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No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities

March 17, 2015 Comments off

No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities (PDF)
Source: National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

Homelessness continues to be a national crisis, affecting millions of people each year, including a rising number of families. Homeless people, like all people, must engage in activities such as sleeping or sitting down in order to survive. Yet, in communities across the nation, these harmless, unavoidable behaviors are treated as criminal activity under laws that criminalize homelessness.

This report provides an overview of criminalization measures in effect across the nation and looks at trends in the criminalization of homelessness, based on an analysis of the laws in 187 cities that the Law Center has tracked since 2009. The report further describes why these laws are ineffective in addressing the underlying causes of homelessness, how they are expensive to taxpayers, and how they often violate homeless persons’ constitutional and human rights. Finally, we offer constructive alternatives to criminalization, making recommendations to federal, state, and local governments on how to best address the problem of visible homelessness in a sensible, humane, and legal way

See also: No Safe Place Advocacy Manual (PDF)

New Report: Many Homeless Youth Alone and At Risk

October 11, 2012 Comments off

New Report: Many Homeless Youth Alone and At Risk

Source: National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

A new report by the Law Center and the National Network for Youth reveals a disturbing truth: 1.6 million youth experience homelessness without a parent or guardian each year, facing numerous barriers to meeting basic needs.

The report, Alone Without a Home, explains why these youth become homeless and reviews current laws affecting them in all 50 states and 6 U.S. territories. Common causes include severe family conflict, parental abuse or neglect, parental mental health issues, and substance abuse. Prior to leaving home, almost half of all unaccompanied youth report being beaten by a caretaker, while one out of four had caretakers request sexual activity.

The rights of unaccompanied youth widely vary from state to state, and it is often difficult for youth and homeless service providers to clarify their legal protections and eligibility for housing, health care, and education services. Moreover, many unaccompanied youth do not seek out help because they assume they will be turned away, or even fear being taken into state custody.

Alone Without a Home recommends eliminating laws that criminally punish unaccompanied youth as runaways or truants, in favor of policies that divert them from court involvement. It also calls on states to expand access to housing, health care, education, and other stabilizing services. This includes allowing youth to contract for housing, receive medical treatment, and enroll in school without parental consent.

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