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Posts Tagged ‘Criminalization’

Criminalizing poverty during a public health crisis

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

By Annie Leomporra

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came out with their recommendation on how to address homeless encampments during the COVID pandemic. The CDC statement read that

… if individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living in encampments to remain where they are. Encourage people living in encampments to increase space between people and provide hygiene resources in accordance with the Interim Guidance for People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness

Image by Western Regional Advocacy Project

For advocates and people experiencing homelessness, this was an exciting statement that spoke to what we all know to be the truth, that homelessness is a public health emergency and that sweeps exacerbate health risks for those living outdoors. The CDC recommended providing access to clean water, hand washing stations, bathrooms, and regular trash pick up for people living outdoors. We thought maybe this would be an opportunity for communities across this country to re-think encampment sweeps, and the criminalization of homelessness. For a little while, in many communities, that is what happened. 

Meanwhile, due to funding cuts and social distancing restrictions, massive congregate shelters had to downsize their occupancy. Some people got transferred to hotels/motels or other services while others went outdoors. Further, as the pandemic economic downturn started to cause real hardship, more folks were forced to seek emergency housing assistance. With shelters at capacity, more people were forced outdoors and after just a few short months, municipalities across this country resumed encampment sweeps, going against CDC guidelines. 

Encampment sweeps aren’t the only thing that continued, the criminalization of ‘quality of life crimes’ came back in full force. In Hawaii, the Civil Beat, reported that the city of Honolulu received $38 million in CARES Act, and the Honolulu Police Department received at least $16 million of that for overtime pay. This overtime pay is suppose to be used to enforce they current mayor’s pandemic rules, however those who were most cited happened to be people experiencing homelessness.

One man has been cited nearly 100 times since March for 199 supposedly pandemic related violations. He has also received 37 tickets for quality of life crimes. Once someone receives a citation they are required to appear in court. A missed court appearance can turn into a bench warrant and lead into an arrest. In citing people experiencing homelessness for little else than not having anywhere to quarantine or social distance, the city of Honolulu not only is being incredibly cruel, but it is creating a dangerous situation for health of the entire community. 

The National Coalition for the Homeless urges localities put into practice the CDC guidelines on unsheltered homeless, and protect this vulnerable population from unnecessary risk of COVID infection, especially as the weather turns cold. We also demand that cities and states end of the practice of criminalizing poverty and homelessness!

Black Lives Matter

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

Our Nation and the World are fearful of the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our hearts go out to George Floyd, his loved ones and all of us who are hurting right now. The massive protests that are taking place across the globe, are revealing years of pent-up frustration with racism and inequality. The militarization of policing in the United States and the repeated acts of violence against people of color by the police, creates a combustible threat—one that strikes at the very foundations of our democracy.

NCH stands in solidarity with those in America who are not satisfied with a society that fails to denounce the structural racism that plagues our nation.  As many of us watched in horror as George Floyd was murdered right in front of our eyes, or Ahmaud Arbery, who was hunted down and murdered on video, or Breonna Taylor who was shot and killed in her own home, we are reminded of many more precious lives taken by the hands of law enforcement – those who are trusted to protect us.

Repeatedly, we hear anguished cries as one more black or brown person takes their last breath, too soon. We are reminded of the reality that until we address structural racism in this country, these horrendous images will continue as nightmares in a never-ending loop.

As we battle multiple crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, the senseless death of yet another black man at the hands of law enforcement, and an attack on our civil liberties, we pray for everyone’s safety and health. We must remain vigilant stewards in hopes of an America and World filled with peace, equality, and justice for all.

Donald Whitehead
Board President
National Coalition for the Homeless

NCH Statement on Martin v. Boise Case

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Blog, Civil Rights, Criminalization, Press Releases

NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS WELCOMES SUPREME COURT DECISION TO ALLOW MARTIN V. BOISE CASE STAND.  CALLS FOR NEW INVESTMENTS TO ADDRESS THE UNDERLYING CAUSES OF STREET HOMELESSNESS

The National Coalition for the Homeless applauds the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to deny a review of the Martin v. Boise case, leaving in place the decision by the 9th Circuit that people experiencing homelessness cannot be punished for camping or sleeping on public property where there are no adequate alternatives.

The Boise decision remains the law, at least in the states within the 9th U.S. Circuit.  Criminalizing homelessness, in absence of reasonable and acceptable alternatives to sleeping on the streets, is unconstitutional, and cities and states must act to develop adequate shelter and affordable to address homelessness in their communities.

“Today is a victory for people experiencing homelessness”, said John Parvensky, Acting Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.  “It is not a victory because people can legally sleep on the streets.  Rather it is a victory because it will force communities to address homelessness proactively – through the development of an adequate supply of affordable housing, while providing safe and appropriate emergency shelter in the interim”. 

NCH calls of the Federal Government to immediately and significantly increase its investment in both housing and services for those experiencing homeless as well as in broader pubic and affordable housing for those at risk of becoming homeless.

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