Cities across the country are passing ordinances that could put panhandlers in jail. According to a USA Today article, “Cities crack down on panhandling”:
Cities have enacted laws targeting the homeless for two decades, including bans on sleeping outdoors or loitering. In the past few years, the focus has turned to panhandling restrictions, said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
Cities are criminalizing the poor in an effort to revitalize their downtowns. Since manufacturing jobs have mostly left America, cities must rely on the service sector and tourism to boost their economies, therefore elevating their interest in hiding the poor and homeless. This puts the poor in a doubly bad situation–first you lose your manufacturing job, then your considered criminal.
So rather than criminalizing the poor–aren’t their lives hard enough?–we should give them housing. Yes, GIVE. I’ve written about this before, and I’ll say it again. It’s cheaper to house the homeless than it is to put them in shelters or send them to jail.
So as the coldest month of the year creeps closer, I’m going to start cataloging all the stories I can find on KnowledgePlex, and other sources, about cities trying to stop low-income housing, or panhandling, or giving out food in public. In the end, I’ll list my findings of shitty things cities are doing to criminalize the poor during the coldest month of the year.
In my view, this is a national war on the poor that’s going under-reported. Let’s see what we can do to put urban issues into the national focus.