You are currently viewing As Criminalization of Homeless Encampments Rises in Urban Areas, Low-Income Individuals Are Left With Dwindling Options

As Criminalization of Homeless Encampments Rises in Urban Areas, Low-Income Individuals Are Left With Dwindling Options

January 17, 2023 | By Kali Girl

As homelessness continues to rise across the nation, a growing number of cities and states are enacting laws that make it illegal to live in tents, cars, or sleep in public spaces. According to the National Homelessness Law Center, over 100 jurisdictions have had such bans in place for years, reports USA Today. Recently, high-profile measures have been approved targeting homelessness in western U.S. cities and entire states. As housing costs continue to soar, experts warn that this trend is likely to continue, with more people becoming homeless in cities such as New York and California.

As of January 2022, federal data shows that 582,462 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night.

City officials may face less resistance in enacting measures that criminalize essential activities like sleeping and seeking shelter, warns Eric Tars, legal director for the National Homelessness Law Center

“The danger is that the worse the housing situation gets, the more people we see on the streets, the more will be the push for these punitive policies,” Tars said. 

This comes as the number of visible, unsheltered homeless individuals continues to rise. As of January 1st, Missouri has implemented a statewide ban on sleeping on state-owned land, making it a misdemeanor to sleep in public spaces like parks or under bridges. In July, Tennessee became the first state to make it a felony to live in a tent or sleep on state land.

In the gritty streets of Portland, Oregon, a controversial plan to outlaw tent living has been given the green light by the City Council. The move aims to relocate individuals residing in encampments to six designated mass sites, each with a maximum capacity of 250 people. But the war on homelessness doesn’t stop there, as Washoe County Commissioners in Nevada are now considering an ordinance to prohibit camping in tents or vehicles and storing personal items in public spaces when it poses “significant harm to any person, or public area.”

Those who violate the rules could face a misdemeanor charge or a $500 fine. And it’s not just the smaller cities, even LA has jumped on the bandwagon, with a City Council-approved ban on tent living in certain areas expanded in August 2022, to prohibit encampments within 500 feet of schools and day care centers, after complaints from teachers and parents that students couldn’t access nearby sidewalks.

Los Angeles and Long Beach mayors, along with Los Angeles County, have declared states of emergency to address the pressing homeless crisis, accelerating efforts to mitigate and prevent homelessness.

Leave a Reply