Over the past decade, communities across the United States have enacted new laws that penalize homeless individuals who are trying to meet their basic needs by prohibiting activities such as loitering, food distribution, and sitting or sleeping in cars and public places – including, parks, plazas, and sidewalks. The proliferation of new laws and ordinances coincides with rising rates of poverty and homelessness brought on by the recent recession, its lingering impacts, and a shrinking social safety net that has diminished capacity to respond to increased need. We have seen the gap between the haves and the have-nots continue to grow across the country, with high levels of income inequality in our cities as the rich get richer and the poor stay poor, or become poorer (Berube, 2014). Laws that move the homeless out of public spaces makes the problem less visible but does not get at the root of the problem, poverty and a lack of affordable housing. And they criminalize the most vulnerable among us, those who are without a home, and create barriers to finding and maintaining housing.

Click to read Larkin Street Unintended Consequences – Policy Brief June 2014