Life for people experiencing homelessness has been more difficult than we imagine, especially for people forced to live and rest in public spaces. Recently multiple states and counties have started implementing or creating laws that criminalize homelessness. These laws are making it increasingly difficult for people who are already marginalized and struggling. With the increase in homelessness in the United States, the criminalization of homelessness is estimated to increase.
Listed below are current laws and regulations being enforced.
New regulations harming people experiencing homelessness:
· “On Jan. 1, a statewide ban on sleeping on state-owned land took effect in Missouri, making it a misdemeanor to sleep in public spaces such as parks or under bridges.”
· “In July, Tennessee became the first state to make it a felony to live in a tent or sleep on state land.”
· “A Los Angeles City Council-approved ban on tent living in certain areas was expanded in August 2022 to prohibit encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers after teachers and parents complained students couldn't access nearby sidewalks.”
***Facts from USA Today
An increase in homelessness:
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2022 Annual Assessment of Homelessness has indicated a 3.4% increase in homelessness in the United States. The cost of housing has increased at the fastest rate since the 1980s, and waitlists for people needing services, like housing vouchers, have doubled.
Homelessness has also turned into a politically polarizing debate. “Policymakers have made the crisis worse, instituting laws and zoning rules that limit the number of available homes.” -New York Times States like California have cities that are currently zoned to have over 75% of the land for single-family housing, which doesn’t allow for plots to have duplex's or apartments that can house multiple families in one area. There is also significant pushback from within communities to have multi-family units developed in their neighborhoods.
It's no secret that ending homelessness is a big task and has many moving parts. What makes this work special is that people can provide support in ways that inspire and motivate them individually. Here are some options to help end homelessness in your community.
How to help:
1. Support local organizations and shelters: The more support (monetary, in-kind donations, volunteering) you can give to organizations helping unsheltered people, the more impactful they can be.
2. Research local officials: “Politicians can dictate your community or city’s policies and funding levels for homeless services and affordable housing. Take the time to learn candidates’ proposals on homelessness and the issues that lead to it, and support those who echo your values.” -The Right to Shower
3. Respond with Kindness: Treat people experiencing homelessness with respect and dignity. These are human beings that deserve to be addressed with kindness. A smile or a kind gesture has the potential to make a significant difference in someone’s life!
As we continue doing the work to end homelessness within our communities, we have to continue to remain steadfast in how we can support and advocate for people in our community who often feel invisible.
Let's be the generation responsible for "ending homelessness one load at a time..."