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Discrimination against the homeless is the act of treating the homeless, or those perceived to be homeless, unfavorably. As with most types of discrimination it can manifest in numerous forms.

Discriminatory legislation regarding homelessness[edit]

Use of the law to discriminate against the homeless takes on disparate forms: restricting the public areas in which sitting or sleeping are allowed, ordinances restricting aggressive panhandling,[1] actions intended to divert the homeless from particular areas, penalizing loitering or anti-social behavior,[2] or enforcing laws on the homeless and not on those who are not homeless.[3]

The French novelist Anatole France noted this phenomenon as long ago as 1894, famously observing that "the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges".[4]

Criminalization of homelessness in the United States[edit]

There is a growing trend in the United States towards criminalizing the state of being homeless.[5] Proponents of this approach believe that punitive measures will deter people from a homeless lifestyle.

To this end, cities across the country increasingly outlaw life-sustaining activities—such as sleeping, eating, sitting, and begging—in public spaces, and selectively enforce more neutral laws—such as those prohibiting open containers or loitering—against homeless populations.[5]

Violators of such laws typically incur criminal penalties, which result in fines or incarceration or both. Homeless people with new "criminal charges" have very restrictive housing and employment options, if either, for years.

In April 2006 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that "making it a crime to be homeless by charging them with a crime is in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments."[6]

Criminal victimization[edit]

Precise factors associated with victimization and injury to the homeless are not clearly understood. Nearly one-half of homeless are victims of violence.[7]

There have been many violent crimes committed against the homeless due to their being homeless.[8] A study in 2007 found that this number is increasing.[9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.nlchp.org/documents/Criminalizing_Crisis
  2. ^ "Britain: Where have all the homeless gone?; The homeless;". The Economist 372 (8388): 21–49. 
  3. ^ Cunningham, Kelly (1999). Out of Sight--Out of Mind?. DIANE Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 0-7881-8276-5. 
  4. ^ France, Anatole (1894). "VII". Le lys rouge (in French). Ils y doivent travailler devant la majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts 
  5. ^ a b National Coalition for the Homeless: A Dream Denied.
  6. ^ http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopinions.nsf/8138B5E4723C6FE988257150005B327E/$file/0455324.pdf?openelement
  7. ^ Meinbresse; Brinkley-Rubinstein, Grassette, Benson, Hall, Hamilton, Malott, Jenkins (2014). "Exploring the Experiences of Violence Among Individuals Who Are Homeless Using a Consumer-Led Approach.". Violence & Victims 29 (1): 122–136.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help);
  8. ^ Fantz, Ashley, "Teen 'sport killings' of homeless on the rise", CNN, February 20, 2007.
  9. ^ Lewan, Todd, "Unprovoked Beatings of Homeless Soaring", Associated Press, April 8, 2007.
  10. ^ National Coalition for the Homeless, Hate, "Violence, and Death on Main Street USA: A report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness, 2006", February 2007.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_against_the_homeless — Please support Wikipedia.
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36 news items

Wed, 18 Feb 2015 22:45:00 -0800

Currently, the city does not have jurisdiction to examine cases of discrimination against the homeless. Her colleagues, Lucía Nuñez, director of the Department of Civil Rights, and Bill Fetty, president of the Equal Opportunities Commission, clarified ...
Fri, 30 Aug 2013 02:40:51 -0700

This week marks two important anniversaries. Back in 1920, women in the United States were given the right to vote. In 1963, over 100,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., in "The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." They helped change the ...
Human Rights Watch
Fri, 30 Jan 2015 05:41:15 -0800

The Act has brought very real benefits to people living in Britain: preventing the separation of elderly couples, securing accommodation for survivors of domestic violence, and tackling discrimination against the homeless. The ECHR - which British ...

BBC News

BBC News
Sun, 21 Sep 2014 09:07:30 -0700

"It's just pure discrimination against the homeless." Bournemouth Borough Council said there were other more appropriate sites. Ms Wells is helped by her mother Rachel, preparing hot food and drinks. They pay for the ingredients themselves, and receive ...
Soapbox Cincinnati
Mon, 23 Jun 2014 18:16:08 -0700

Meet Ronnie and Willa, two Cincinnati residents who have faced what 25,000 people in the city experience each year: homelessness. We asked them to share their stories: how they became homeless, how they dealt with the poverty and what paths they took ...

Toronto Sun

Toronto Sun
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:22:30 -0700

Calling the ban a "broad and cryptic statute" that criminalized innocent behavior, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said it was unconstitutional because it gave insufficient notice of the conduct it penalized and promoted discrimination against ...
Huffington Post
Mon, 14 May 2012 10:27:18 -0700

At its extreme, discrimination against the homeless can become violent. Since 1999 there have been 1,184 cases of violence in the U.S. against homeless people attributed to bias, according to a compilation by Donovan's organization. More than 300 of ...
Gilroy Dispatch
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:06:30 -0700

The Los Angeles law also invites discrimination against the homeless and the poor, the court ruled. “For many homeless persons, their automobile may be their last major possession—the means by which they can look for work and seek social services ...

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