Discrimination Against Homeless People
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Discrimination Against Homeless People

Discrimination against homeless people is the act of treating homeless people, or people perceived to be homeless, unfavourably. As with most types of discrimination, it can manifest in numerous forms.

Discriminatory legislation regarding homelessness

Use of the law to discriminate against homeless people takes on disparate forms: restricting the public areas in which sitting or sleeping are allowed, ordinances restricting aggressive panhandling,[1] actions intended to divert homeless people from particular areas, penalizing loitering or anti-social behavior,[2] or enforcing laws on the homeless and not on those who are not homeless.[3]

There are at least 5 states which consider crimes against homeless people with the reason being due to their homelessness to be a hate crime, which include Florida, Maine, Washington and Rhode Island. It is also a hate crime stature in Washington, DC.

The French novelist Anatole France noted this phenomenon as long ago as 1894, famously observing that "the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges".[4]

Criminal victimization

Precise factors associated with victimization and injury to homeless people are not clearly understood. Nearly one-half of homeless people are victims of violence.[5] There have been many violent crimes committed against homeless people due to their being homeless.[6] A study in 2007 found that this number is increasing.[7]

Lack of access to public restrooms

Per the National Alliance to End Homelessness,[8] in January 2017, there were a total of 553,742 homeless people accounted for across the United States, including territories. Of those accounted for, 192,875 of them were unsheltered and "lived in a place not meant for human habitation, such as the street or an abandoned building". Many unsheltered homeless camps are located in industrial districts and along highways, far away from public parks facilities where traditional public bathrooms are located. If local municipalities do not provide bathroom access, homeless people are left to urinate and defecate in the streets and waterways near their camps.

Robinson and Sickels with the University of Colorado Denver[9] released a report highlighting the criminalization of homelessness across the State of Colorado. During their research, they found that 83% of the people they interviewed were denied bathroom access because they were homeless. Without access to public bathrooms, unsheltered homeless populations across the country are living in third-world conditions. This, in turn, leads to public health concerns such as the hepatitis A outbreak seen in California. As reported by Kushel with The New England Journal of Medicine,[10] in 2017 alone 649 people in California were infected with hepatitis A; this outbreak began in the homeless population.

Anti-homeless Architecture

As noted previously, restricting the public areas which sitting or sleeping are allowed is an action which is intended to divert the homeless from being welcomed into particular areas. The action of rough sleeping is hard enough on the vulnerable[disambiguation needed], without having to battle such hostility from their own surroundings for a place of comfort.[11] Research conducted by Crisis (based in the UK), found that 6 in 10 reported an increase during 2015-2016 in hostile architecture, whereas during the same time, a recorded 35% were unable to find a place to sleep as a result of the designs. The named hostile architectures include; anti-homeless spikes, segregated benches and gated doorways.[12]

We come across these different types of measures put in place to keep out certain groups of people on a daily basis, however, they are so subtle that it can be hard to notice.[13] Something as simple as arm rests on benches can be seen as a useful tool, whereas it's actual design purpose may be to keep the vulnerable[disambiguation needed] from using it to rest. These types of designs are now common within our urban environments and cleverly designed so that it's hard to see their true intent.[14] We are able to name this discrimination as hostile designs are not made by mistake. Instead, it is a form of unkindness which is designed and funded with a purpose to target certain groups and create an unwelcoming environment for the unwanted.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Criminalizing Crisis: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities (Report). National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. November 2011. Archived from the original on 2017-09-14. Retrieved .
  2. ^ "Britain: Where have all the homeless gone?". The Economist. 372 (8388): 21-49.
  3. ^ Out of Sight - Out of Mind?. National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. 1999. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-7881-8276-1.
  4. ^ France, Anatole (1894). "VII". Le lys rouge (in French). Ils y doivent travailler devant la majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts
  5. ^ Meinbresse, M; Brinkley-Rubinstein, L; Grassette, A; Benson, J; Hamilton, R; Malott, M; Jenkins, D (2014). "Exploring the Experiences of Violence Among Individuals Who Are Homeless Using a Consumer-Led Approach". Violence & Victims. 29 (1): 122-136. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.vv-d-12-00069. PMID 24672998. S2CID 36463124.
  6. ^ Fantz, Ashley (February 20, 2007). "Teen 'sport killings' of homeless on the rise". CNN.
  7. ^ Lewan, Todd (April 8, 2007). "Unprovoked Beatings of Homeless Soaring". USA Today. Associated Press.
  8. ^ National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2018). State of homelessness. National Alliance to End Homelessness, retrieved from https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-report/
  9. ^ Robinson and Sickels (2015). No right to rest criminalizing homelessness in Colorado. University of Colorado Denver and Denver Homeless Outloud, retrieved from http://www.cpr.org/sites/default/files/homelessness-study.pdf
  10. ^ Dr. Kushel, M. (2018). Hepatitis A outbreaks in California - addressing the root cause. The New England Journal of Medicine, retrieved from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1714134
  11. ^ "New research from Crisis uncovers dehumanising effects of defensive architecture". Crisis.
  12. ^ "New research from Crisis uncovers dehumanising effects of defensive architecture". Crisis.
  13. ^ "Defensive architecture: keeping poverty unseen and deflecting our guilt". the Guardian. 18 February 2015.
  14. ^ "Defensive architecture: keeping poverty unseen and deflecting our guilt". the Guardian. 18 February 2015.
  15. ^ "Defensive architecture: keeping poverty unseen and deflecting our guilt". the Guardian. 18 February 2015.

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