Criminalization of Homelessness

Is Homelessness a Crime?

In numerous cities and towns in the U.S., there are not enough beds available in shelters for all the people who are homeless, and some shelters close during the day. As a result, many homeless people are forced to live outside in public places like parks, bridges, and sidewalks.

Many communities have laws that criminalize activities homeless people need to do in public to survive including:

  • Sitting or lying down
  • Loitering or loafing
  • Eating or sharing food
  • Asking for money or panhandling
  • Sleeping in cars and outside or camping

The cost of criminalizing homelessness is high. Anti-homeless legislation results in homeless people being arrested or fined, which makes it harder to find housing and jobs and access social services. Criminalizing homelessness does not solve homelessness and violates human rights.