Imagine a world where it is illegal to sit down. Could you survive if there were
no place you were allowed to fall asleep, to store your belongings, or to stand
still? For most of us, these scenarios seem unrealistic to the point of being
ludicrous. But, for homeless people across America, these circumstances
are an ordinary part of daily life.

Homelessness continues to be a national crisis, affecting
millions of people each year, including a rising number
of families. Homeless people, like all people, must
engage in activities such as sleeping or sitting down
in order to survive. Yet, in communities across the
nation, these harmless, unavoidable behaviors are
treated as criminal activity under laws that criminalize

This report provides an overview of criminalization
measures in effect across the nation and looks at trends in
the criminalization of homelessness, based on an analysis
of the laws in 187 cities that the Law Center has tracked
since 2009. The report further describes why these laws
are ineffective in addressing the underlying causes of
homelessness, how they are expensive to taxpayers, and
how they often violate homeless persons’ constitutional
and human rights. Finally, we offer constructive
alternatives to criminalization, making recommendations
to federal, state, and local governments on how to
best address the problem of visible homelessness in a
sensible, humane, and legal way.


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The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
Year of publication: 
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The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
Cruel inhuman and degrading treatment
Right to dignity
Right to housing