Report: Anti-Homeless Laws on the Rise

Even as scarce and expensive housing has forced more people into the streets, cities have passed new laws that effectively criminalize homelessness, according to a survey of 187 U.S. cities released earlier this week. It’s a harsh irony for people who have lost homes as gentrification has jacked up housing costs for both renters and homeowners.

Photo: Dawarwick Photography

Photo: Dawarwick Photography

The author of the report — the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, a TRLA partner — found that the 187 cities, including eight Texas towns, have enacted a a slew of new laws against behavior that is a matter of survival for homeless people — laws against sleeping in public, sleeping in cars, panhandling.  For example, there  have been increases in city-wide bans on camping (69 percent), city-wide bans on sleeping outside (31 percent), bans on sitting and lying down in public (52 percent), and bans on living in vehicles (143 percent). The laws are counterproductive, according to the report, because citing homeless people for, say, panhandling or loitering, complicates their economic and legal problems, making it harder for them to get off the streets. Plus, according to the report, it costs more per person to enforce anti-homeless laws than it would to provide housing for the homeless. The report broke down the laws by cities, pointing out which ones had laws against homeless behavior:

Sleeping in public city-wide Sleeping in particular public places Camping in public city-wide Camping in particular public places Sitting, lying in particular public places Lodging, living, or sleeping in vehicles Loitering, loafing, vagrancy city-wide Loitering, loafing in particular public places Begging in public places city-wide Begging in particular public places Food-sharing city-wide  or in particular public places
Amarillo X X X
Austin X X X X X
Corpus Christi  X X
Dallas X X X X X
El Paso X X X
Ft Worth X X X
Houston X X X X
San Antonio X X X X X X