New Article: Chris Herring & Dilara Yarbrough, Punishing the Poorest: How the Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty in San Francisco, SSRN June 2015. Abstract below:
This report details the effects of criminalization on the homeless residents of San Francisco. Since 1981, San Francisco has passed more local measures to criminalize sleeping, sitting, or panhandling in public spaces than any other city in the state of California. During this same period, the United States has experienced the greatest expansion of its jail and prison system under any democracy in history. This expansion has primarily affected the poorest members of this society. This report documents and analyzes the impacts of the rising tide of anti-homeless laws in our era of mass incarceration on those experiencing homelessness in San Francisco.
This portrait of the impact of criminalization on homelessness in San Francisco is based on a citywide survey of 351 homeless individuals and 43 in-depth interviews carried out by volunteers at the Coalition on Homelessness and supervised by researchers at the UC Berkeley Center on Human Rights. It also analyzes data on policy, citations, and arrests received from the San Francisco Police Department, the Sheriff ’s Office, the Human Services Agency, and the Recreation and Park Department. The report provides an in-depth analysis of each step in the criminalization of homelessness — from interactions with law enforcement, to the issuance and processing of citations, to incarceration and release. The study makes evident how criminalization not only fails to reduce homelessness in public space, but also perpetuates homelessness, racial and gender inequality, and poverty even once one has exited homelessness.
The aim of this study is to provide sound empirical data on the impacts of the criminalization of homelessness in San Francisco, while also giving voice to the experiences of those whose housing status results in their regularly being processed through the city’s criminal justice system. Our hope is that these findings will inform public discussions and provide the basis for thoughtful policy approaches to these issues.
News Coverage: Terrence McCoy, “The homeless man who went to Harvard Law with John Roberts,” Washington Post, July 13, 2015.
Olson, Justin and MacDonald, Scott, Washington’s War on the Visibly Poor: A Survey of Criminalizing Ordinances & Their Enforcement (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602318
Howard, Joshua and Tran, David, At What Cost: The Minimum Cost of Criminalizing Homelessness in Seattle and Spokane (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602530
Lurie, Kaya and Schuster, Breanne, Discrimination at the Margins: The Intersectionality of Homelessness And Other Marginalized Groups (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602532
Ortiz, Javier and Dick, Matthew, The Wrong Side of History: A Comparison of Modern and Historical Criminalization Laws (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602533
-Congrats to Sara Rankin and her students for this work! =)
New Article: Marc Lane Roark, Human Impact Statements, forthcoming Washburn L.J. Abstract below:
When a city undertakes a development project, low income and homeless persons face risks of expulsion. Public and private developers often target low-income neighborhoods and public lands because those spaces are viewed as economically more attainable or available for development. Moreover, the legal systems preference to treat disputes as individual entitlement claims tends to relegate disputes to broad questions of entitlements rather than unpacking the impacts that property changes have on the vulnerable populations. Whether by gentrification or by enhancement of city infrastructure, developer decisions disrupt what are already unstable living environments by imposing increased costs of relocation. These changes also destabilize community relationships by separating individuals and families from the support networks, local transportation options, and local employment that they have come to rely on. In short, low-income and homeless persons find themselves even more destabilized when public and private development projects force their evacuation from where they live. This article argues that though development may be necessary, it should not be undertaken without more serious evaluation of the human impacts in relation to the space. Such evaluations should include the impact on communities, employment, education, and environment for impacted persons. Importantly, failure to take notice of these impacts continues to promote cycles of poverty that plague American cities.
Drawing on similarities in the environmental context, the article argues that a NEPA-like approach to human housing can offset externalities that homeless persons and those living in low-income housing are forced to internalize through environment changes. Amongst those impacts are the imbalance between the well-funded developer and low income populations; the view that low income properties can be classified as nuisance type properties; and the tendency to only consider the highest best use of property as the rationale for development. The article concludes by offering model legislation that could be implemented to provide a NEPA like assessment to city development.
New Report: Marina Fisher, Nathaniel Miller, Lindsay Walter &Jeffrey Selbin, California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State (2015). Abstract below:
Vagrancy laws conjure up a distant past when authorities punished people without a home or permanent residence. Whether the objects of pity or scorn, vagrants could be cited or jailed under laws selectively enforced against anyone deemed undesirable. Although such laws have generally been struck down by courts as unconstitutionally vague, today’s “vagrants” are homeless people, who face growing harassment and punishment for their presence in public.
More than one in five homeless people in the country lives in California, and two-thirds are unsheltered. The state legislature has done little to respond to this widespread problem, forcing municipal governments to address homelessness with local laws and resources. Cities have responded by enacting and enforcing new vagrancy laws — a wide range of municipal codes that target or disproportionately impact homeless people.
Through extensive archival research and case studies of several cities, the report presents detailed evidence of the growing enactment and enforcement of municipal anti-homeless laws in recent decades as cities engage in a race to the bottom to push out homeless people. It concludes with a call for a state-level solution to end the expensive and inhumane treatment of some of California’s most vulnerable residents.
News Article: James Surowiecki, Give the Homeless Homes, The New Yorker, Sept. 22, 2014