Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless

July 2009

This joint report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) and the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) tracks a growing trend in U.S. cities - the criminalization of homelessness. The report focuses on specific city measures from 2007 and 2008 that have targeted homeless persons, such as laws that make it illegal to sleep, eat, or sit in public spaces.  The report includes information about 273 cities nationwide. Homes Not Handcuffs also ranks the top 10 U.S. cities with the worst practices in relation to criminalizing homelessness. The national ranking is based on a number of factors, including the number of anti-homeless laws in the city, the enforcement of those laws, the general political climate toward homeless people in the city, and the city's history of criminalization measures. In addition to the "meanest cities," the report identifies examples of more constructive approaches to homelessness.

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