Blissfully Informed Hippie Chick

Encouraging people to think critically about everything.

De-criminalizing Homelessness

on October 30, 2014

A spirited conversation about an article I posted on Facebook has inspired me to write about something I feel very strongly about: ending homelessness. I believe that we could virtually eliminate it. And I believe that it should be our duty to do so. Not as citizens, not as religious individuals, but as humans. In my opinion, no one deserves to be homeless.

But what about the fact that many homeless individuals are drug addicts and twisted sex offenders? Well, who’s going to hire a homeless registered sex offender who’s addicted to meth? You? I think we need to ask ourselves if it’s the homeless who choose to be homeless or the government creating homelessness by the laws that they pass; thereby, making it impossible for a homeless individual to become a productive member of society.

Those registered sex offenders…what was their crime? Did they rape little boys? Or did they just pee on the street while some kid was walking by? Perhaps they committed one of these “offenses”:
http://www.businessinsider.com/surprising-things-that-could-make-you-a-sex-offender-2013-10

Or perhaps they were convicted as a child of a “sexual offense”, and forced to be registered for the rest of their lives:
http://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/05/01/12594/report-details-lives-ruined-children-put-sex-offender-registries

The truth is, none of us know for sure based only on the sex offender registries online. Unfortunately, any one of those trivial offenses could make it nearly impossible to NOT be homeless in a lot of cities. This article tells the story of one man who was forced into homelessness by being registered as a sex offender:
http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2004172751_peirce11.html

Furthermore, being addicted to drugs is a precursor to perpetual homelessness in a lot of cases. Conviction of possession leads to jail time, which leads to decreased ability to get a job, which leads to increased risk of homelessness. And all the while, the individual is still addicted to meth. Which leads to another conviction for possession, more jail time, and an even smaller chance of finding a job. Etc, etc. Not to mention, addicts are more likely to commit petty theft in order to obtain more drugs, and some of them are more likely to get into a fight because certain drugs increase aggression in a person. Both instances would likely land the addict in jail yet again. Jail does nothing to actually fix the problem of addiction, it simply makes it more and more unlikely that the addict will ever get clean and stop being homeless.

Instead of criminalizing addiction, maybe we should try something else, like what Portugal did.  Offering treatment instead of sending the addict to jail. It worked extremely well for them, as their rates of drug use have plummeted:
http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html

Or I suppose we could continue down the path of completely criminalizing homelessness. That should solve everything, right?

Instead of fining people who live on the streets, a far more effective approach is simply to give them homes. This doesn’t only help homeless people, who get the stability of four walls and a roof, but also benefits cities and taxpayers. A recent study in Florida found that, after accounting for law enforcement and hospitalization expenses, it costs taxpayers $31,065 per year for every homeless person who lives on the streets. Giving them housing and supportive services, on the other hand, comes with an annual cost of just $10,051.

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/10/23/3583327/san-antonio-homeless-citations/

Tiny house villages are cropping up all over the country as a way to end homelessness.

Advocate Tina Lamberts noted that there are several places in the community where people can get meals or stay in a shelter.
“What they really can’t get is a place to call their own, and the privacy and dignity that comes with that,” she said. “Really, the person needs the stability of a roof over their heads and knowing where they’re going to be day after day.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/21/tiny-houses-aim-help-homeless/14411661/

It’s really sad that the majority of our government officials, supposedly representatives of the average American citizen, are working on criminalizing homelessness; while the average American citizens are working to eradicate it by offering these individuals support, rather than jail and fines. To be fair, not all city and state governments are following the trend of criminalizing homelessness. Utah has decided to take a different route:

Utah began giving away apartments to homeless individuals after realizing how much money could be saved. Policymakers realized that, on average, it costs about $16,670 a year to jail a person and $11,000 a year to set him or her up with an apartment and social work. Since a program called Housing First was launched in 2006, homelessness in Utah has decreased 78 percent, despite a recession-fueled plunge in median income. The state estimates that all Utahans will be housed by next year.

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/7/the-growing-criminalizationofhomelessness.html

Who are these homeless people, anyway? Why should we care? First of all, they are humans. One thing that sets us apart from most other animals is our capacity for empathy. That alone should be our driving force to end homelessness. If that’s not enough, here is a breakdown of who exactly is homeless in America:

While circumstances can vary, the main reason people experience homelessness is because they cannot find housing they can afford. It is the scarcity of affordable housing in the United States, particularly in more urban areas where homelessness is more prevalent, that is behind their inability to acquire or maintain housing.

By the numbers:

There are 610,042 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.
Of that number, 222,197 are people in families, and
387,845 are individuals.
About 18 percent of the homeless population – 109,132 – are considered “chronically homeless,”and
About 9 percent of homeless adults- 57,849 – are veterans.

http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/snapshot_of_homelessness

Don’t forget, children can be homeless, too:

There is a common misconception that homelessness is an issue that only pertains to single men and women, but in reality thousands of families a year will experience homelessness.  In fact, 41% of the homeless population is comprised of families. (National Alliance to End Homelessness). Homelessness is a devastating experience for families.  It disrupts virtually every aspect of family life, damaging the physical and emotional health of family members, interfering with children’s education and development, and frequently resulting in the separation of family members. 

http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/families.html

So what are you going to do about it? Will you work towards ending homelessness, or will you turn a blind eye to this, the face of homelessness in America?

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3 responses to “De-criminalizing Homelessness

  1. blubecca7 says:

    These statistics just shocked me! I knew it was bad. Especially where I live with all the families running out of water and the drought. I have seen so many more people on the streets. I just hate seeing this. And knowing how easily it can happen to anyone. I am one catastrophe away from homelessness myself. It’s just horrible. I wish I could do more. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should have mentioned that we were technically homeless for a couple months after Sam got out of the Army. For all intents and purpose, living in a family member’s trailer in their driveway is considered homeless. At least as far as the government is concerned. So I can tell you from experience, it definitely is one of the worst feelings in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • blubecca7 says:

        We have been homeless more than once. When I was a kid we lived with family on 3 seperate occasions, and in a motel. And just last year we were living with my sister.

        Like

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