5 Int'l J. L. Context 1 (2009)

handle is hein.journals/injwcext5 and id is 1 raw text is: 

International Journal of Law in Context, 5,1 Pp. 1-24 (2009) Cambridge University Press
doi:Io.1o17/SI74455230900So- Printed in the United Kingdom

Hiding homelessness: 'quality of life' laws and

the politics of development in American cities

Anyu  Fang*
Stanford Law School, Juris Doctor Candidate

    An incredibly disturbing trend has surfaced recently in local American politics: cities are forbidding
    citizens fromfeeding homeless people. My focus is on how this has been created in tandem with shifts
    in public discourse. Although I recognise the similarities between the new ordinances and previous
    anti-homeless laws, I want to point to something new that is happening in the legal treatment ofstreet
    people. City governments, somewhat dependent on the non-profit sector to give material aid while
    government services are cut, are now vigorously targeting charities/citizens. I will argue that this
    trend relates to a shift in the framing of the homeless issue - more specifically, a shift in the very
    definition of the homeless.


An  incredibly disturbing trend has surfaced recently in local American politics: cities are forbid-
ding citizens from feeding homeless people. An alarming report from the National Law Center on
Homelessness  and Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless (2007) has shed light on this
trend.' Starting in 2003, all residents in Atlanta, Georgia, wishing to provide food for the homeless must
do so by volunteering through eight designated organisations in the city. Chief of Police of the county
is instructed to use the health code to stop people from sharing food. In Cincinnati, Ohio, the Park
Board is now requiring that anyone doing 'outreach ministries' obtain a special use permit. This has
restricted the regular food sharing that charities do in public parks. In Las Vegas, Nevada, a 2006
ordinance bans'the providing of food or meals to the indigent for free or for a nominal fee' in city parks.
Santa Monica, California, passed two ordinances: one prohibiting leaving food or clothing in city parks
for donation and another prohibiting distribution of food without a permit.
    All these episodes above would seem to be disconnected events to the casual newspaper reader,
but I will suggest that they are part of very significant changes in urban development in the US.
I regard such changes and the laws discussed here as both particular to urban American politics but
also illustrative of some broader global trends. With the rise of gentrifying 'global cities' has come a
rapid rise in homelessness (Sassen, 2001) in places as diverse as Seoul (Song, 2006) and Prague
(Hladikova, 2007). The legal methods of dealing with such crisis are different in each country, but
there is a broad theme of harsh police tactics as evidenced from a seemingly worldwide war on street
children from Haiti (Kovats-Bernat, 2000), to South Africa (Samara, 2005), to Canada (Parnaby, 2003),
to Bangladesh (Khair, 2001). In the US, legal restrictions on the activities of street people -'quality
of life ordinances' - have been passed in very different political climates: some in large cosmopolitan
world-renowned   cities; some others in small but fast-growing towns. Although  some  of these

I   lam deeply indebted to Maha M. Abdel-Rahman (Cambridge) and Yael Navaro Yashin (Cambridge) for their
    guidance. Additionally, I thank Pellumb Kelmendi, Karen McClendon and Jakob Rieken for reading drafts of
    this paper.
I   The examples that follow are from this report, Feeding Intolerance, and so are some others throughout this

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