The Meanest Streets in the United States

A brief overview of some Anti-Homeless legislation as compiled by the

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty

The National Law Center looked at 49 cities and the legislation that impacts the homeless. The report states that all of the anti-homeless actions detailed in this report are inhumane, poor policy, and ultimately ineffective - and so equally deserving of condemnation.

But among the cities analyzed, some stand out particularly for having the "meanest streets", either for their clear intention simply to expel their homeless residents from their city limits or for the concerted, focused, often highly politicized efforts undertaken against their homeless residents: Santa Monica's ordinances which ensure that there is no public place where homeless people can sleep have had their intended effect of forcing homeless people to leave. The City has also passed laws to prevent private individuals from distributing food to hungry people while capping City spending on services to homeless people. Santa Ana continues to try to rid itself of homeless people - its official policy since 1988 - despite having paid damages to settle two lawsuits and having lost two other legal challenges to its anti-homeless policies.

Cleveland police officers pursued a policy of driving homeless people from downtown areas to remote industrial areas and leaving them there. Depositions are now being taken in the case by police, the homeless and advocates.

San Francisco conducted a campaign of harassment against its homeless citizens through a combination of neighborhood sweeps, passage of anti-homeless laws and selective enforcement - resulting in between 11,000 and 22,500 citations in a little over a year. Seattle vigorously enforced its sidewalk and trespass laws, which prevent homeless people from even sitting down to rest in public downtown areas in an effort to keep homeless people away from downtown businesses.

The Homeless Grapevine will remain vigilant about laws that impact the homeless around the country and will comment upon them periodically.

Copyright by the Homeless Grapevine Issue 11, August-September 1995, Cleveland, Ohio