Which State Is "Meanest?"

For People Who Are Poor, California Is the Pits, Claims a New Report

Many U.S. cities and counties are enforcing laws that turn homeless people into criminals, according to a new report from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

According to the report "Illegal to Be Homeless: The Criminalization of Homelessness in the United States," the laws state that it is illegal to sleep or camp in public areas. According to the report, three major U.S. cities tied for the title of "meanest city" for homeless and poor people. These three cities are New York, Atlanta and San Francisco.

The state of California was called the "meanest state" for people who are poor and homeless. The report also cited that almost 80 percent of the cities surveyed already prohibit sleeping or camping in public areas, but 100 percent of the cities lacked the services, shelters and beds to meet the demand.

Homeless advocates have expressed that it is unfair to enforce these laws when there are thousands of people throughout the nation who are homeless with no other alternatives for better living. Some have expressed their dissatisfaction with these laws, stating that a better solution to this problem is to create more living-wage jobs, fund more affordable housing programs, and increase access to health care. (To view the entire report visit www.nationalhomeless.org/crimreport/index.html.)

On the brighter side, the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers a number of targeted homelessness programs, has reported that the following programs will receive budget increases:

  • PATH. Proposed increase from $40 million to $47 million.

  • Health Care for the Homeless. Proposed increase from $113.4 million to $125.5 million.

  • Grants for the Benefits of Homeless Individuals. Proposed increase from $19 million to $29.2 million.

  • Runaway and Homeless Youth. Proposed increase from $103 million to $113 million.

National Organizations Working on Homeless Issues
National Coalition for the Homeless(202) 737-6444www.nationalhomeless.org
National Alliance to End Homelessness(202) 638-1526www.naeh.org
National Low Income Housing Coalition(202) 662-1530www.nlihc.org
To find organizations and services that assist homeless people in L.A.
Community Housing Information and Referral Program (CHIRP)(888) 300-4033www.aidshousingla.org
L.A. Homeless Services Authority(213) 683-3333www.lahsa.org
Homeless Healthcare(213) 744-0724www.homelesshealthcare.org
Marlon ValdiviaMarlon Valdivia manages APLA's Residential Services and also serves as member of the Board of Directors of the National AIDS Housing Coalition. He can be reached by email at mvaldivia@apla.org, or by calling (213) 201-1435.
Back to the April/May 2002 issue of Positive Living.