The Quiet Way Major Cities Are Targeting Their Poorest Residents

November 11th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Homeless Americans live in communities across the country, and some of them use cars for a place to sleep at night. However, some cities are making sleeping in a vehicle a crime. The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to ban people from sleeping in their cars at night time, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

A homeless man leans in front of bench.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people … who are concerned people have turned their curbs into an apartment,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said at the hearing, according to the Times. “That’s just not fair to anybody.”

The city ordinance would allow people to sleep in cars in industrial or commercial areas from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. but not in residential areas, according to the Times. However advocates at the hearing argued that this measure could send working homeless parents and children to isolated parts of the city far away from their jobs. 

The city council decision comes on the same day that it appeared Los Angeles voters would overwhelmingly pass a $1.2 billion bond measure to address the city's dearth of affordable housing. According to a 2015 study by the Economic Roundtable, "over 13,000 public assistance recipients were newly identified as homeless each month from 2002 through 2010." The study also found that only one in 10 chronically homeless people were able to receive assistance to help pay for affordable housing. 

Two years ago, a Los Angeles law banning living in vehicles citywide was struck down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because it discriminated against homeless people, according to the Times. 

Other cities have also passed laws that target the homeless population. 

A homeless man sleeps in front of a building.

In June, the Washington Post's Justin Jouvenal reported on cities that have made it illegal for homeless people to sleep outside, sit outside, or beg for money. 

"Cities have enacted a wave of crackdowns and new laws against panhandling, camping and other activities associated with homelessness," he wrote. "They say such efforts help preserve the renewed vitality, curbing crime, health problems and behaviors that bother residents and disrupt business."

In 2014, the National Coalition of the Homeless released a report about a trend of criminalizing feeding the homeless. 

"One method that has become more popular has been to introduce new legislation, designed with the intention of restricting individuals and groups from sharing food with people experiencing homelessness," the report stated. 

At the time of the report in 2014, 21 cities passed laws that banned people from feeding the homeless, by requiring permits or adherence to strict food safety requirements. 

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