Tourism vs. Homelessness

Each summer I notice how tourism and homelessness do not get along very well.

Rather than providing day and night shelter services during the summer months, tourist cites do their best to move out homeless out of visible downtown locations. Homeless people are seen as bad for both tourism and economic development.

I been struck recently by the number of anti-homeless laws being proposed/implemented.

In Citrus Heights, CA the City Council is expected to pass an anti-panhandling law this week.

Salt Lake City is also heading down the same path.

And in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, FL is considering ordinances restricting panhandling in certain locations and against aggressive panhandling.

And on the East Coast, Virginia Beach has found its solution by installing Donation Meters as a way to discourage panhandling. The monies collected will go to the middle man—that being agencies serving the homeless. If you donate a $1,000, your individual or corporate name will be affixed to the Meter.

We have been documenting this trend for many years and have produced five criminalization of homelessness reports this past decade complete with a bi-annual ranking of the meanest cities. See Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities. July 2009 for our most recent findings.

These tried and failed ordinances have not stopped panhandllng or ended homelessness.

by Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing

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4 Responses to Tourism vs. Homelessness

  1. Seattle just passed an ordinance against aggressive panhandling. Makes the suburban folks feel more comfortable about coming downtown & makes the businesses feel like “something’s being done.” Realistically, what panhandler (probably mentally ill, homeless, & lacking a daytimer) is going to show up in court on a certain date and time and pay a fine? Personally, I’m down here near Pioneer Square every week day and I have never been AGGRESSIVELY panhandled. I think the fuss is more about making shoppers, businesses & tourists feel better, while what we really need is more low-income housing with supportive services for chronically homeless, mentally ill, chemically-addicted and otherwise disabled persons.

  2. Here in Florida there are positive and negative consequences. To a degree, homeless people get hired for events, guiding traffic and cleanup, if only occasionally. On the other hand they can get rounded up and moved out-of-sight, like what happened at the Superbowl in Tampa. The tourist industry produces lots of jobs for the less educated, but those jobs have been harder to find in the current economic situation. And, in order to get these jobs it’s usually necessary to have housing (to be clean and presentable), references, and proper I.D., even if the jobs don’t require a fifth-grade education.

  3. Seattle just passed an ordinance against aggressive panhandling. Makes the suburban folks feel more comfortable about coming downtown & makes the businesses feel like “something’s being done.” Realistically, what panhandler (probably mentally ill, homeless, & lacking a daytimer) is going to show up in court on a certain date and time and pay a fine? Personally, I’m down here near Pioneer Square every week day and I have never been AGGRESSIVELY panhandled. I think the fuss is more about making shoppers, businesses & tourists feel better, while what we really need is more low-income housing with supportive services for chronically homeless, mentally ill, chemically-addicted and otherwise disabled persons.

  4. Attenborough says:

    Seattle just passed an ordinance against aggressive panhandling. Makes the suburban folks feel more comfortable about coming downtown & makes the businesses feel like “something’s being done.” Realistically, what panhandler (probably mentally ill, homeless, & lacking a daytimer) is going to show up in court on a certain date and time and pay a fine? Personally, I’m down here near Pioneer Square every week day and I have never been AGGRESSIVELY panhandled. I think the fuss is more about making shoppers, businesses & tourists feel better, while what we really need is more low-income housing with supportive services for chronically homeless, mentally ill, chemically-addicted and otherwise disabled persons.

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