Paso Robles, CA – Sept. 2, 2020      The temporary camping facility for homeless residents has been operational at the Borkey Flats site for a few weeks. The site has restrooms, showers, and a safe needle exchange program, and a safe parking area….. The City’s Community Action Team (CAT) has been visiting homeless encampments in the riverbed. They have visited 15-20 camps and informed individuals of the new camping site and of the city’s intent to clean up the riverbed to mitigate fire risk and protect water quality…… To date, three encampments have been cleaned up of all debris and waste products. The camping site has not seen high levels of utilization to date, but the city has seen a drop in fire activity since the CAT team has been active and cleanup has begun….. The city will need to move the Borkey Flats encampment in the winter given that it is in the flood plain, and continues to work with homeless service provider partners to identify long-term solutions…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER    …..     …..
San Francisco, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     Bay Area universities and homeless advocates released a report on Thursday revealing the various barriers homeless San Franciscans face when accessing housing…..  The report’s authors, the Coalition on Homelessness and researchers with the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State University and Santa Clara University surveyed 600 temporarily housed San Franciscans, with a focus on transgender people …..  Participants revealed inequities that homeless transgender people face to obtain housing, poor shelter conditions, crowded living spaces and strict curfews, created even more barriers to housing. Fifty-eight percent of participants said they would prefer a legal homeless camp with basic amenities like showers and toilets while 34 percent reported having substance abuse issues…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER     …..     …..
Sacramento, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     Gov. Newsom said Wednesday that California is making an “unprecedented” effort to address homelessness, two days after lawmakers failed to pass a bill to massively increase housing production….. The governor said the state has placed more than 22,000 homeless Californians in 16,400 hotel and motel rooms amid the pandemic, and is giving cities and counties $600 million to purchase the rooms and convert them into permanent housing….. Local governments also got another $628 million in emergency homelessness aid….. “It’s self-evident that this has to be our top priority and it is,” said Newsom……   A bill heading to Newsom’s desk would create a state Office to End Homelessness, led by a new “homelessness czar.” But the governor said Wednesday he already has a homelessness czar — a seemingly fluid title, given that he’s used it to refer to six people in the past two years, including himself……      HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER…..     …..
Stanton, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     The County of Orange and Jamboree Housing Corporation submitted three applications as co-applicants and in partnership with the City of Stanton under the State Homekey program, all located in the City of Stanton, for a total request of $28.1 million in funding…..   The County recently received word that the State reserved funding for both The Tahiti Motel and Stanton Inn and Suites applications….. Two of the motels identified for funds in the City of Stanton include The Stanton Inn and Suites, on Katella Avenue and the Tahiti Motel, on Beach Boulevard. A third motel is in negotiation with the motel owner, they say. By the end of the project, 132 new affordable homes will be available for those experiencing homelessness.   Although this does not yet represent an award from the State, it is one step closer to securing funding to make the Homekey program work…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER…..     …..     …..  
Oxnard, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     The Vagabond Inn in Oxnard could soon transition from an affordable hotel option to permanent supportive housing for 70 of the county’s homeless residents, thanks to a state funding effort that aims to house California’s most vulnerable homeless individuals….. The Vagabond Inn is under consideration for funding under Project Homekey, the next phase in the state’s efforts to protect homeless residents who are high-risk for COVID-19. In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $600 million in funding for cities and counties to convert motels, hotels and other housing types into permanent housing…..  “This is an opportunity that allows us to both respond to COVID-19 and respond to homelessness and the long-term need to provide housing,” said Oxnard Housing Director Emilio Ramirez…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER     …..     …..
Paso Robles, CA – Sept. 2, 2020      The temporary camping facility for homeless residents has been operational at the Borkey Flats site for a few weeks. The site has restrooms, showers, and a safe needle exchange program, and a safe parking area….. The City’s Community Action Team (CAT) has been visiting homeless encampments in the riverbed. They have visited 15-20 camps and informed individuals of the new camping site and of the city’s intent to clean up the riverbed to mitigate fire risk and protect water quality…… To date, three encampments have been cleaned up of all debris and waste products. The camping site has not seen high levels of utilization to date, but the city has seen a drop in fire activity since the CAT team has been active and cleanup has begun….. The city will need to move the Borkey Flats encampment in the winter given that it is in the flood plain, and continues to work with homeless service provider partners to identify long-term solutions…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER    …..     …..
Stanton, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     The County of Orange and Jamboree Housing Corporation submitted three applications as co-applicants and in partnership with the City of Stanton under the State Homekey program, all located in the City of Stanton, for a total request of $28.1 million in funding…..   The County recently received word that the State reserved funding for both The Tahiti Motel and Stanton Inn and Suites applications….. Two of the motels identified for funds in the City of Stanton include The Stanton Inn and Suites, on Katella Avenue and the Tahiti Motel, on Beach Boulevard. A third motel is in negotiation with the motel owner, they say. By the end of the project, 132 new affordable homes will be available for those experiencing homelessness.   Although this does not yet represent an award from the State, it is one step closer to securing funding to make the Homekey program work…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER…..     …..     …..  
San Francisco, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     Bay Area universities and homeless advocates released a report on Thursday revealing the various barriers homeless San Franciscans face when accessing housing…..  The report’s authors, the Coalition on Homelessness and researchers with the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State University and Santa Clara University surveyed 600 temporarily housed San Franciscans, with a focus on transgender people …..  Participants revealed inequities that homeless transgender people face to obtain housing, poor shelter conditions, crowded living spaces and strict curfews, created even more barriers to housing. Fifty-eight percent of participants said they would prefer a legal homeless camp with basic amenities like showers and toilets while 34 percent reported having substance abuse issues…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER     …..     …..
Oxnard, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     The Vagabond Inn in Oxnard could soon transition from an affordable hotel option to permanent supportive housing for 70 of the county’s homeless residents, thanks to a state funding effort that aims to house California’s most vulnerable homeless individuals….. The Vagabond Inn is under consideration for funding under Project Homekey, the next phase in the state’s efforts to protect homeless residents who are high-risk for COVID-19. In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $600 million in funding for cities and counties to convert motels, hotels and other housing types into permanent housing…..  “This is an opportunity that allows us to both respond to COVID-19 and respond to homelessness and the long-term need to provide housing,” said Oxnard Housing Director Emilio Ramirez…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER     …..     …..
Sacramento, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     Gov. Newsom said Wednesday that California is making an “unprecedented” effort to address homelessness, two days after lawmakers failed to pass a bill to massively increase housing production….. The governor said the state has placed more than 22,000 homeless Californians in 16,400 hotel and motel rooms amid the pandemic, and is giving cities and counties $600 million to purchase the rooms and convert them into permanent housing….. Local governments also got another $628 million in emergency homelessness aid….. “It’s self-evident that this has to be our top priority and it is,” said Newsom……   A bill heading to Newsom’s desk would create a state Office to End Homelessness, led by a new “homelessness czar.” But the governor said Wednesday he already has a homelessness czar — a seemingly fluid title, given that he’s used it to refer to six people in the past two years, including himself……      HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER…..     …..

Homeless Criminalization: “Is It Illegal To Be Homeless?”

By: BFTS
September 16, 2020 —

People often ask, “Is it illegal to be homeless?” The answer is not black or white, or all that simple. While technically, homelessness is not illegal, there are many, many laws and policies that criminalize homelessness, which then creates a legal process by which authorities can punish people for being homeless.

Sound confusing or justly unfair? It is, especially to the person who’s simply trying to survive in circumstances that have left them without a home or roof over their head.

Eric Tars, legal director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and poverty notes that “every day in America, people experiencing homelessness are threatened by law enforcement, ticketed, or even arrested for living in public spaces, even when they have no other alternatives.

“Millions of individuals, families, and youth on their own experience homelessness each year, and millions more lack access to decent, stable housing they can afford. Rather than providing adequate housing options, too many communities criminalize homelessness. … These laws and policies violate constitutional, civil, and human rights and create arrest records and fines and fees that stand in the way of homeless people getting jobs or housing. Yet these expensive policies are ineffective at addressing homelessness or reducing the number of people who must sleep on the streets. In fact, more effective policies, such as providing affordable housing and services can, in fact, cost less than criminalizing homelessness.”

What exactly is meant by the “criminalization of homelessness?” According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), it is when law enforcement punishes a person who is homeless for doing things in public that the rest of us do indoors: sleeping, resting, sheltering, making money, or simply being.


Stopping the criminalization of homelessness is the first step to ending homelessness.


And while in theory these laws are supposed to apply to all people equally, in actuality they are only applied to certain people in practice; those being poor and homeless individuals.

Authorities can also use other means like enforcing laws such as jaywalking or disorderly conduct arbitrarily, and solely on people who are homeless. Police and city agencies also conduct “sweeps” or displacing homeless people from outdoor public spaces through harassment, threats, and evictions from encampments.

Here are some more examples:

  • Panhandling is “soliciting.”
  • Sitting on the sidewalk is “loitering” and “blocking the sidewalk.”
  • Leaving your things on the ground is “littering.’
  • Peeing behind a dumpster is “indecent exposure.”
  • Lack of ID can get you arrested for “failure to identify.”
  • Sleeping on the ground is “urban camping.’
  • Being intoxicated can be “drunk and disorderly.’
  • Just being on private property — like sleeping in a shop’s doorway at 2 a.m., even though they are closed or shuttered from the COVID pandemic — can be deemed “trespassing.”

Anti-homeless legislation has been on the rise over the past decade, even though studies show that cities would be better spending enforcement money addressing the root causes of homelessness. Since 2010, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has tracked these laws in 187 cities and found that bans on camping have increased by 69%, on sitting or lying by 51%, on loitering by 88%, on panhandling by 43%, and on living in vehicles by 143%. Meanwhile, a 1,300% growth of homeless encampments has been reported in all 50 states.

Several of our Backpacks For The Street clients, for instance, have made use of an NYC building’s overhead to sleep under during the night, but are fined if they don’t vacate by 4 a.m.

Imagine being homeless – with no money or anything – and being given a $50 or $100 ticket.


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In late 2019, the Los Angeles City Council reinstated its ordinance prohibiting people from sleeping overnight in vehicles in residential areas or living in a vehicle within a block of a park, school, or daycare.

Enforcement of the ordinance, in the face of L.A.’s housing crisis and the COVID pandemic, appears to be part of a larger campaign of criminalizing homelessness rather than addressing what leads to people living out of their cars in the first place.

A few other examples of how these laws made homelessness illegal and how in one instance led to a person losing their life.

In 2014, 56-year-old Jerome Murdough, a homeless veteran, was without shelter in New York City on a cold night. Searching for a safe place to sleep, he took refuge in an enclosed stairwell in a Harlem public housing building. He was discovered and arrested for trespassing. Since he didn’t have $2,500 to post bail, he was sent to Riker’s Island Prison, where he was placed in a hot cell and ignored for hours by prison staff.

According to a city official, Murdough “basically baked to death” in the cell and was found dead on the floor. His disturbing saga highlights the dangers of criminalization laws; instead of receiving needed assistance, Murdough was treated like a criminal, and ultimately lost his life by trying to protect it.

In 2017, 22-year-old Alexis Leftridge became homeless in downtown San Diego. Police cited or arrested Leftridge, a mother of a 3-month-old son, on at least 15 separate occasions. Her crimes: Urban camping by blocking the sidewalk with the tent she set up in East Village. Several citations and three jail stay later, Leftridge has grappled with warrants and orders barring her from the downtown blocks that are home to a cluster of homeless service providers.

“Criminalization policies make the problem of homelessness worse,” according to the NLCHP. “When homeless people are saddled with cripplingly high fines and fees for minor traffic tickets or incarcerated for having to live outdoors, it hurts their employment and housing options, access to education, family stability, and communities. This isn’t an effective way to keep our communities safe, and it’s disruptive to families and communities.”

Data on how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted that is still being collected. But advocates believe the health crisis has increased those numbers significantly.

Here are the five main reasons criminalizing homeless does not work, according to the NHCLP:

1. Criminalization does not address the real causes of homelessness: lack of affordable housing, access to proper mental health services and job training/placement, and services for our vets, youth, and individuals whose circumstances cause them to be homeless.

2. Criminalization worsens homelessness: because most people experiencing homelessness are not on the street by choice saddling them with cripplingly high fines and fees or incarceration hurts their employment and housing options, access to education, family stability, and communities.

3. Criminalization is expensive and wasteful: Instead of helping people escape life on the streets, criminalization creates a costly revolving door that keeps them from getting off.

4. Criminalization is unconstitutional: A growing number of courts have struck down laws punishing sleeping and camping in public and to the practice of homeless sweeps, under the 4th, 8th, and 14th Amendments.

5. Housing, services, and protecting renters work better and more cost-effectively: Housing stability makes it possible for a person to get or keep a job, address health problems, or get an education. That is why “Housing First” programs, which provide not just shelter, but housing and then services like health care, have seen the greatest success in permanently ending homelessness

This article courtesy of Backpacks For The Street


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More articles for you —

Some Bay Area Homeless Sweeps Continue, Despite Coronavirus Moratorium

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1 Comment on "Homeless Criminalization: “Is It Illegal To Be Homeless?”"

  1. IF WE CLOSE PROGRAMS that prevent homelessness then the problem will continue to grow and cost more lives, money,reduce property values, and increase policing and medical costs. Not to mention reducing the number of tax payers.
    If you want to mitigate encampments where they do the greatest damage then we need to establish small perment functional camps or complex’s with assigned individual 8’x12′ sleeping cabins with water, trash and sewer access for minimal share of cost.
    I oppose providing hotels without any share of cost when truly disabled collect disability and hotels provide no on premises support services. This is is only a temporary conversion of homeless funds for sustaining the corporate tourism industry anpd developing no longterm permenant solutions for homelessness0.
    I do think car camping is a health menace to homeless and housed alike.
    More should be done to support finding and sustaining employment by availability of mass transit even if it means deploying school bus’to do dual duty.
    I think every drive up food establishment should be required to have exterior walk up service and adequate refuse containers as should big box retailers that sell food.
    And there should be adequate numbers of of water fountains and individual public bathrooms.

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