Unhoused Activists Are Fighting a Surge of Bills Criminalizing Homelessness

Advocates across the country are fighting a host of state and local laws that criminalize homelessness and threaten those living on the streets as a result of rising rents.

Police in riot gear stormedAfter one protester climbed onto a bench to confront Nury Martinez, Council President of Los Angeles City Council, the chambers of the meeting were packed on Tuesday. The protester was protesting an ordinance that bans homeless encampments near schools or daycares.

Martinez briefly recessed the meeting as dozens of activists chanted “Abolish 41.18!” — a reference to the ordinance. Last week, 70 protestors carrying signs with the words “Abolish 41.18!” shut down a council vote on the same measure. messages like “If I die unhoused – forget burial – just drop my body on the steps of L.A. City Hall.”

As inflation reaches 40-year highs, pandemic-related eviction protections expire and longstanding housing shortages reach their breaking point, America’s homelessness crisis has become increasingly dire and difficult to ignore. The number of people who live in poverty is increasing. unsheltered — whether in cars, parks or in tents on the sidewalk — accounted for nearly 40 percent of the country’s total homeless population last year, its highest level in a decade.

After protesters were ejected by police on Tuesday, the council voted 11-3 in favor of massively expanding the so-called 41.18 zonesAdvocates claim that this will make homelessness illegal in up to a fifth the city.

“We knew that we weren’t going to get anyone to change their vote — but we wanted to take a stand,” said Ground Game LAAshley Bennett, co-founder and Outreach Director, was present at the actions against ordinance 41.118. “We’re showing that we’re present, we’re here, and we deserve to be heard.”

Some cities have more strict regulations than others in order to prevent people from living without housing.

Tennessee became the first nation-wide state to do so last month. felonyYou can be sentenced to up to six months in prison for camping in parks and other public properties. Texas passed a similar bill last year, making homelessness a misdemeanor.

Momma V lives in a tent in Tennessee with her family. told CNN, “They’re trying to run us out of Nashville. We’re out here homeless. We’re trying to struggle to make it, and they’re just trying to make it worse on all of us by criminalizing it.”

In the last two years, lawmakers have made significant progress in six states have also introduced bills criminalizing homelessness by making sleeping on public property a misdemeanor — punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a month in jail — and installing temporary public tent cities.

The bills are modeled largely in accordance with the original. draft legislationPublication by the Cicero Institute (Texas-based think tank founded in 2008 by Palantir’s billionaire founder),

Even in relatively progressive cities like Los Angeles, Bennett criticized policymakers’ persistence on implementing “band-aid” solutions that fail to address the root causes of homelessness — namely, a lack of housing, widespread discrimination against voucher holders, and a flawed and inadequate shelter and services system.

“People have a deep innate desire to have the space to go home and feel safe and secure and protected,” said Bennett, who noted that many unhoused people have had negative experiences in the shelter system. “Instead of calling people service-resistant, we need to ask why these services aren’t working.”