Cities criminalize homelessness - and now the homeless are fighting back!

Cities around our nation have criminalized homelessness, but now, the homeless are fighting back.

According to a recent article over at The Think Progress Blog, four homeless men in Manteca, California have filed a suit against the city, saying that the anti-homeless ordinances violate their constitutional rights.

About a year ago, that city made it illegal for anyone to sleep or set up camp outside. Then, they passed an ordinance against using the bathroom outdoors at all.

When asked whether the new laws were intended to ban homeless people, the city's chief of police said that they were only to “correct the wrong,” and “if the correction is [the homeless] leaving Manteca, then that's their choice.”

However, rather than simply leaving, four of the homeless men impacted by the ordinances filed suit, saying the laws were passed with, “a discriminatory purpose of driving the homeless from the city.” And, these brave men are not alone.

A lawsuit has also been filed on behalf of the homeless in St. Augustine, Florida, and the Justice Department has filed a memo against similar laws in Boise, Idaho.

The fact is, virtually no one is homeless by choice and it's wrong to prosecute someone simply for being stuck out on the street.


mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 16 weeks ago

The misspelling of "gun control" on Alex Jones's site reminds me, there was a song by the political-comedy group The Foremen called "Hidden Agenda", in which the chorus accuses the right wing of being in favor of wealth care, fun control, snivel rights, & public broad bashing.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 16 weeks ago

We may be able to get a "family values" angle on gun control.

A lot of the deaths due to lack of regulation are young children accidentally killing themselves or others. Now, I know that in general the death of a child often leads to divorce. We probably don't have statistics compiled on this, because of the law forbidding it, but that collateral effect must surely be true in the case where one of those parents left a gun out where their child could get to it and pull the trigger out of curiosity.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 16 weeks ago

I'll agree with Thom's practice of not naming the shooters.

When the shooter has a European name, people can remember it and differentiate him from other people of his race and ethnicity. But when the name is Arabic, all that most people will remember is that it's "some Muslim name" (even though Muslim isn't a language), and that assists them in becoming prejudicial.

If we treat shooters equally and name none of them, then prejudice must be more equitable.

Kilosqrd's picture
Kilosqrd 7 years 16 weeks ago

Criminalizing the homeless? Do you mean Berkeley, California?

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 16 weeks ago

Kilosqrd, San Francisco is the most gentrified city in the United States and harbors a great intolerance for the homeless. That would probably extend to most of the rest if the Bay Area as well.
Some mayors of 'Cisco had been elected running on virulent anti homeless platforms. One such mayor, in the '90s, acquired military aircraft with heat seeking technology for the police department to better find the homeless sleeping in Golden Gate Park. He got an ordinance passed banning outdoor food sharing with the homeless. He got another ordinance passed unconstitutionally limiting the amount of possessions the homeless were allowed to have and would then have the police forcibly tear their "exessive" possessions from their hands and toss them into garbage trucks. He tried to place all the city's homeless into what advocates called a "concentration camp".
These and other actions inspired a heroic movement of opposition that included such groups as Food Not Bombs, orders of Catholic clergy, local trade unions, Human Rights Watch and others, in which hundreds were arrested in passive resistance and civil disobedience.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 16 weeks ago

The National Coalition for the Homeless stated on their website that the worst states of the union to be homeless, with regard for respect for basic human rights, are California, Florida and Hawaii.
I described the San Francisco Bay Area, in Los Angeles the authorities tried to put all the homeless on an island.
Florida has 500 private prisons, so who better to keep them well stocked than the homeless? The old southern vagrancy laws are revived for that purpose. In Florida it is a FELONIOUS offence to sleep outside and after one's release from serving the sentence for the heinous crime of trying to survive one has no choice but to be a "repeat offender".
There are places in the United States where a homeless person cannot eat, sleep, urinate or defacate EVER without breaking the law. Crimes against capitalism, as Victor Hugo said, to roughly paraphrase, "The Law, in its infinite wisdom, has seen to it that neither a rich man nor a poor man can steal a loaf of bread, sleep under a viaduct or pee in an alley.".

Dr PeterPalms's picture
Dr PeterPalms 7 years 16 weeks ago

Criminalizing Homelessness is no different than eliminating the draft to excuse the children of wealthy families from service and assuring yourself of a supply of volunteers who can't find jobs anymore, which have all been exported to countries with lower wage levels and standards of living , and not nationalizingfeducation so those who cannot afford an education will remain unemployed and be complelled to join the miltary, in order to avoid homelessness, while the wealthy pay whatever it costs to keep their children out of military service and exposire to the loss of life and shell shock and disability that military service exposes volunteers to. We have reached the point that we are awakening to the fact that we have lost control of our country but it is too later to do much about it when it is criminal not to do any more than speak up against such legalized tyranny. What is even worse is that this planned


Once again, it is clear that Orwell's grim narrative was a primary model for The Report from Iron Mountain. The authors of that blueprint for our future spoke at length about the value of planned waste as a means of preventing the masses from improv­ing their standard of living. They wrote:

The production of weapons of mass destruction has always been associated with economic "waste." The term is pejorative, since it implies a failure of function. But no human activity can properly be considered wasteful if it achieves its contextual objective....

In the case of military "waste," there is indeed a larger social utility.... In advanced modem democratic societies, the war system ... has served as the last great safeguard against the elimination of necessary social classes. As economic productivity increases to a level further and further above that of minimum subsistence, it becomes more and more difficult for a society to maintain distribution patterns insuring the existence of "hewers of wood and drawers of water."

The arbitrary nature of war expenditures and of other military activities make them ideally suited to control these essential class relationships.... The continuance of the war system must be assured, if for no other reason, among others, than to preserve whatever quality and degree of poverty a society requires as an incentive, as well as to maintain the stability of its internal organization of power.1

These documents from the real past and the imagined future can help us to better understand our present. The spectacle of wasteful government spending suddenly becomes logical. It is not stupidity that pays farmers to destroy their crops, or that purchases trillion-dollar weapons systems that are never deployed or in some cases not even completed, or that provides funding for studies of the sex life of the tse-tse fly, or that gives grants to pornographers posing as artists. The overriding object behind most of these boondoggles is to waste the resources of the nation. It is obvious by now that the decline in living standards in the Western world is associated with a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. What is not so obvious, however, is that this is according to plan. To that end, massive waste in government spending is not an unfortunate by-product, it is the goal.

That brings us back to the question of finding an acceptable substitute for war. War is not only the ultimate waste, it is also the ultimate motivation for human action. As Orwell said, waste in the absence of war "would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society." Will the environmental-pollution model be able to sufficiently motivate human action to be a substitute for war?

That is not a safe assumption. The possibility of war in our future cannot be ruled out. The environmental-pollution model is not yet thoroughly proven. It is working well for limited purposes

1. Lewin, Report, pp. 34-35, 40-41.

and on a limited scale, but it is still doubtful that it will ever equal the hysteria potential of a physical war. The world planners will not abandon the use of war until the new model has been proven over many years. On that point, the Report from Iron Mountain was emphatic:

When asked how best to prepare for the advent of peace, we must first reply, as strongly as we can, that the war system cannot responsibly be allowed to disappear until 1) we know exactly what it is we plan to put in its place, and 2) we are certain, beyond reasonable doubt, that these substitute institutions will serve their purposes in terms of the survival and stability of society.... It is uncertain, at this time, whether peace will ever be possible. It is far more questionable ... that it would be desirable even if it were demonstrably attainable.

Dr PeterPalms's picture
Dr PeterPalms 7 years 16 weeks ago

That's all folks

gloriapower's picture
gloriapower 7 years 16 weeks ago

Some places have found out that giving the homeless access to homes creates better citizens who want to work and take care of themselves.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 16 weeks ago

Sorry Dr Pete... this is about criminalizing homelessness!!!

Appearing to be an extremely mean and abhorent usa phemomena

Who would desire to be there I can not imagine?

Real trouble is the evil influence of usa that pervades the planet... end!?!?

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 16 weeks ago

Gloreapower go!!!

Humans need LOVE FIRST

This simple concept has been lost somehow

What does a child need when it comes from the womb of a woman????

This is elementary... NO?

KCRuger's picture
KCRuger 7 years 16 weeks ago

The fact that legislatures refuse to protect homeless folk from the over-zealous legislation of their contemporary's is astounding. This issue should be a litmus test. It should be explicitly placed into law that behavior like making the provision of a meal unlawful is unconstitutional; such a restriction on personal liberty cannot possibly be constitutional anyway, but it needs to be explicitly stated so.

cccccttttt 7 years 16 weeks ago

There is a middle road on dealing with the homeless.

They clearly deserve shelter, food, and medical treatment.

But, city dwellers have a right to a feces and urine free public space.

On the city outskirts, build many tiny housing modules with

automatic sterilizing systems.

Provide food, a camp doctor, and security.

Police are to move city ordinace violators to that camp.

There will be problems but once worked out, am sure many cities

would want a field tested approach.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 16 weeks ago
Quote cccccttttt:On the city outskirts, build many small housing modules

It sounds like a good idea, but eventually these areas become ghettos and then concentration camps, unless the value of the land increases, then the people are forced out or herded into other concentration camps. Some South American countries have, occassionally, adopted an even simpler method for dealing with the homeless and poor - death squads.

We need to recognize the root of the problem - there are just too many people on this planet for the amount of available resources, jobs, homes, etc. If we don't curtail our runaway growth, even the United States will soon be implementing death squads.

Charla Sirtoff's picture
Charla Sirtoff 7 years 16 weeks ago

On a recent trip to Utah I noticed there were more than the usual homeless when i asked about it I was told because they criminalized it in California so they all went to Utah. When will be get to the root of this, rather than pass laws to ignore it? We can't ignore it, it won't go away. We need a leader that will create jobs and stop sending them off shore, a leader that will get revenue flowing in so we can help people get on their feet. I am in Illinois and since we now have a Republican Govenor and still no balanced budget he decided that any amount over a 600.00 winning on our state lottery will not get paid. So people have quit playing the lottery and who suffers but our schools because that is where the some of the money is alotted to. When the lottery was instatuted years ago we were told is was for schools and roads, that was to get people on board, yet come to find out the money that the state allocated to schools was held back so really where did ours schools get helped, they didn't. I wonder if we have reached the point of no return on all of our problems because we have politians that would rather fight each other rather than work together.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 15 weeks ago

Gloriapower, you're right and that plan has been implemented and with great success in Utah, in fact, Salt Lake City. It was first tried in New York - whose constitution states housing to be a basic right. It was being implemented here in Illinois until our aforementioned Governor Rauner cut it and came to hold the budget hostage.
It was found that simply giving the homeless apartments cost less than all the combined costs of the emergency room visits, jail time, social services and everything else.
When manufacturing left the cities it not only took away the many jobs for the uneducated and unskilled but it also took away the tax base for the cities. Manufacturing was replaced as a tax base for cities by property taxes which gentrified the cities and took away all the affordable housing.
Ronald Reagan cut the housing subsidies and deregulated the housing, real estate industries and made it easier for manufacturing to offshore but it started in the '70s before Reagan with the oil embargo of 1973 and the nationalization of the oil industries of Mideastern countries.
The price of oil was the final push for manufacturing to leave the cities in the '70s and then the country in the '80s and after. Before that we were an imperial economy and our carefree lifestyle up 'til the '70s, where we only had to think about getting high and getting laid and could just make pigs of ourselves, depended on colonial exploitation which the U.S. always effected not by outright conquest and subjugation but the installing and maintaining of puppet governments.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 15 weeks ago

I am disgusted with California, my state of origin. Those laws restricting how many possessions a homeless person may have, making it illegal for homeless people to eat, to use blankets or tents, to sleep anywhere outdoors, etc. are yet another example of what fascism looks like. I always thought California (particularly the S.F. Bay Area where I'm from) was among the more enlightened places in this country. It actually was, forty years ago. Now it's a fascist police state. Makes me sick.

I'm delighted that a few homeless people have started fighting back. They should. This is ABUSE, pure and simple. Like Thom says, no one "chooses" to be homeless. Our cancer-stage, crony capitalist system creates homelessness. What many people don't seem to realize is that some of the homeless are actually employed, paid too little to afford the most basic necessities such as housing. It is an outrage.

Nothing short of radical change in this country is going to fix problems like this. With all my heart I pray for Bernie Sanders to get elected and for a much more progressive Congress. Anything less than that transpiring and I guarantee, these problems will only get worse. MUCH worse.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 15 weeks ago

Giving housing to homeless people also makes sense because it's near impossible to get a job otherwise when you have to take a day off to get a shower or show up for the interview with a sleeping bag slung over your shoulder with "the soft reek of slept in [and rumpled] clothes" and so on.
What people don't realize is that when you make the lives of the homeless harder, to indulge some self righteousness or other, you only make it harder for them to get out of homelessness and those same homeless individuals will be stuck there literally for years.

upperrnaz12348's picture
upperrnaz12348 7 years 15 weeks ago

Beats me why "the law" is so hard on the homeless. There is a reason why the the people that have no roof over their heads, or, in some cases live in their vehicles, parked somewhere out of reach of the authorities. Even if they work, they still don't have the means to pay for shelter, and when there are abandoned buildings, they are told it is tresspassing although the some of the people that own the property have long gone, and "nobody owns" them--might as well let them stay there at least.

Granted, the economy cannot offer them jobs as much what with all the outsourcing, but there are solutions, as the "small houses" that can be built with a minimum cost, and , say a public works program that offers some kind income, however mininal to cover the utilities and living expenses. Needless to say, that also can create situations where the authorities might supress them, as well.

The real solution is as the other commenters have mentioned. Love with some sensible way of providing shelter for people that have economic serious difficutlties that prevent them from obtaining any kind of shelter. It would seem that Reagan"s mantra of "Greed" is still around.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 15 weeks ago

The law serves the rich and powerful, the homeless are anything but and a nuisance and annoyance to the rich and powerful, like do many insects. Before the homeless and their advocates got it together and made some noise the homeless were were very much treated like pesky insects and still are somewhat.
When you don't have power or influence you don't have rights.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 15 weeks ago

Have a nice day.

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