Across the country, cities and states are criminalizing homelessness. Thrive DC stands firmly against these laws, and we believe that the solution to homelessness lies in housing, not punishment. Why? Let’s go over it.
What is the Criminalization of Homelessness?
The National Homelessness Law Center reports that criminalization of homelessness refers to the increasing number of laws that make it illegal for people to perform life-sustaining activities like sitting, sleeping, eating, asking for donations, or even simply existing in public places, despite a lack of adequate alternatives. These laws in practice make it illegal to be unhoused.
And according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, these laws violate constitutional rights. For example:
Despite their discriminatory purpose and potential constitutional violations, many of these laws remain in effect, resulting in a variety of harmful consequences for people experiencing homelessness, both legal and non-legal.
Where does DC stand with all this?
DC is actively working to end chronic homelessness in the city, rather than criminalizing it. The city also recently passed the DC Human Rights Amendment Act in October, 2022. This Act provides funding to educate law enforcement about the impact of enforcement decisions against unhoused people. The goal is to decrease the rates of violence and incarceration against unhoused people by providing enhanced training.
Thrive DC applauds DC’s efforts to end chronic homelessness and that they are doing so in a way that does not include criminalizing homelessness. Criminalizing homelessness doesn’t end homelessness–it perpetuates it by increasing incarceration and violence.