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6 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol'y 145 (1999)
Out of Sight - Out of Mind: The Continuing Trend toward the Criminalization of Homelessness

handle is hein.journals/geojpovlp6 and id is 151 raw text is: Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy
Volume VI, Number 2, Summer 1999
Out of Sight-Out of Mind?: The Continuing
Trend Toward the Criminalization of
Maria Foscarinis, Kelly Cunningham-Bowers, and Kristen E. Brown*
This Article examines the current trend in many American cities toward the
criminalization of homelessness. This turn to the criminal justice system for
solutions to homelessness is manifested by restrictions on the use of public
spaces for sleeping or sitting, anti-begging laws, and police sweeps. The
reasons cities most often cite for these get-tough policies are safeguarding
public health and safety, promotion of economic vitality in commercial and
tourist districts, and maintenance of the aesthetic quality of cities. But anti-
homelessness laws are often found to be overly broad and to violate fundamen-
tal rights of homeless.
The authors contend that these get-tough policies only attack the symptoms
of homelessness and do not address the deep social and economic roots of the
problem. The authors instead point to constructive alternatives that work to
make homeless people self-sufficient. The Article discusses a number of cities
and Business Improvement Districts that have adopted more effective ap-
proaches to homelessness. Such approaches have included providing opportu-
nities for service providers to intervene and address the needs of homeless
people prior to direct police involvement, providing places other than public
streets for homeless people to be and perform necessary functions, and
innovative methods for funding housing, shelter and services for homeless
people. While the authors note that these are not solutions to the problem of
homelessness, they contend that they represent positive approaches that rely
on proactive solutions and represent a move away from flawed law enforce-
ment approaches.
* This article is a compilation of work of the Executive Director Maria Foscarinis (A.B. 1977,
Barnard College; M.A. 1978, J.D. 1981, Columbia University), Staff Attorney Kelly Cunningham-
Bowers (B.A. 1987, Miami University; J.D. 1990, The College of William & Mary), and Legal
Advocate Kristen E. Brown (B.A. 1995, Mt. Holyoke College; J.D. 1998, Georgetown University) of
the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. The National Law Center would like to thank
and acknowledge Catherine Bendor, Rick Herz, and Greg Christianson for their earlier, substantial, and
excellent work upon which this article draws. The National Law Center is a not-for-profit organization
established in 1989 by Maria Foscarinis to address issues related to homelessness and poverty at the
national level. Based in Washington, D.C., the National Law Center works with local groups across the
country to ensure that constitutional and other rights of homeless people are protected.

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