It Is Becoming Illegal To Be Homeless In America

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

Should we make homelessness against the law and simply throw all homeless people into prison so that we don’t have to deal with them?  Incredibly, this is actually starting to happen in dozens of major cities all across the United States.  It may be difficult to believe, but in many large urban areas today, if you are found guilty of “public camping” you can be taken directly to jail.  In some cities, activities such as “blocking a walkway” or creating any sort of “temporary structure for human habitation” are also considered to be serious crimes.  And there are some communities that have even made it illegal to feed the homeless without an official permit.  Unfortunately, as the U.S. economy continues to slow down the number of homeless people will continue to grow, and so this is a crisis that is only going to grow in size and scope.

Of course the goal of many of these laws is to get the homeless to go somewhere else.  But as these laws start to multiply all across the nation, pretty soon there won’t be too many places left where it is actually legal to be homeless.

One city that is being highly criticized for passing extremely draconian laws is Houston.  In that city it is actually illegal for the homeless to use any sort of material to shield themselves from the wind, the rain and the cold

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is taking a similar approach—his anti-encampment ordinance makes it illegal to use “fabric, metal, cardboard, or other materials as a tent or temporary structure for human habitation.” This ensures that the Houstonian homeless are vulnerable not just to the elements, but also to the constant threat of the police. Officials cite one of the most common justifications for crackdowns on the homeless: neighborhood safety (a more socially acceptable way of talking about the not-in-my-backyard mentality).

With all of the other problems that we are facing as a nation, it stuns me that there are politicians that would spend their time dreaming up such sick and twisted laws.

According to one news report, the homeless in Houston are now officially banned from doing all of the following things…

1. They can’t block a sidewalk, stand in a roadway median or block a building doorway. (AKA they can’t panhandle).


2. They also can’t do any of these things — blocking walkways — under state law that already existed.


3. They can’t sleep in tents, boxes or any other makeshift shelter on public property.


4. They also can’t have heating devices.


5. They can’t carry around belongings that take up space more than three feet long, three feet wide, three feet tall.


6. People can’t spontaneously feed more than five homeless people without a permit.

If I was a homeless person in Houston, I would definitely be looking to get out of there.

But where are they going to go?

Things are almost as bad in Dallas.  In fact, it is being reported that the police in Dallas “issued over 11,000 citations for sleeping in public from January 2012 to November 2015.”

When you break that number down, it comes to 323 citations per month.

Of course some people have tried to challenge these types of laws in court, but most of the challenges have been unsuccessful.  For example, just check out what recently happened in Denver

Three people who were contesting Denver’s urban-camping ban were found guilty on Wednesday, April 5, at the Lindsey-Flanigan courthouse. The defendants — Jerry Burton, Randy Russell and Terese Howard — were determined to have unlawfully camped on November 28, 2016, and to have interfered with police operations at one location. All three were sentenced with court-ordered probation for one year and between twenty and forty hours of community service.


The case challenged Denver’s unauthorized-camping ordinance, which has been divisive ever since Denver City Council approved it in 2012.

Since the courts are generally upholding these laws, this has just emboldened more communities to adopt anti-homelessness ordinances.  According to one report, dozens of major cities have now passed such laws…

City-wide bans on public camping (PDF) have increased by 69 percent throughout the United States. What used to be seen as an annoyance is now prohibited, forcing fines or jail time on those who certainly can’t afford it. The only nationwide nonprofit devoted to studying this, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, has been tracking these changes since 2006. Their findings? There are a scary number of laws passed that ironically make it costly to be homeless.


For example, in 33 of the 100 U.S. cities they studied, it’s illegal to publicly camp. In 18, it’s illegal to sleep in public. Panhandling is illegal in 27 cities.


In 39 cities, it’s illegal to live in vehicles.

As I have warned repeatedly, we are seeing hearts grow cold all around us.  Instead of doing everything that they can to try to help those in need, communities are trying to make them go some place else, and those that try to feed and help the homeless are being harshly penalized.

Sadly, all of this comes at a time when homelessness is on the rise all over America.  In a previous article I pointed out that in New York City the number of homeless people recently hit a brand new all-time high, and things have gotten so bad in Los Angeles that the L.A. City Council has formally requested that Governor Jerry Brown declare a state of emergency.

We tend to think of the homeless as bearded old men with drinking problems, but the truth is that many of the homeless are children.

In fact, the number of homeless children in the United States has risen by about 60 percent since the end of the last recession.

If this is how we are going to treat some of the most vulnerable members of our society while things are still relatively stable, how are we going to be treating one another when the economy completely collapses?

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Cognitive Dissonance's picture

fI this is how we are going to treat some of the most vulnerable members of our society while things are still relatively stable, how are we going to be treating one another when the economy completely collapses?

Just guessing here but....FEMA camps?

<But they'll never do THAT.....right?>

BennyBoy's picture


Corporate prisons need moar "customers".

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

All slaves of the (police) state MUST provide their own keep.

<It's the law dammit.>

That means you.

tmosley's picture

The chronically homeless are homeless because they choose to be, ie they'd rather have illegal drugs, or rather not take their anti-psychotic drugs. If you don't want to play by the rules, then you can fuck off somewhere else. There are PLENTY of places that those who are down on their luck can turn and have shelter and food provided to them. The Salvation Army is everywhere. There are churches and numerous charities for them. But they all have rules, and these people don't want to play by them.

So fuck them.


If you are as ignorant about most things in life as you are about mental illness and homelessness then its a wonder you figured out how to login to ZH to post your comments.  Simplified ignorance 

espirit's picture


But where am I going to live when my parents sell out and go into assisted living quarters?


It’s just not fair and I think my rights are being violated.


Muddy1's picture

Michael, Michael, Michael, it is NOT illegal to be homeless in America.  Your title is dishonest and misleading.  It IS, however, illegal to  take up residence in certain locations of certain cities with a structure or other type of shelter.  Now here is how you can show us the righteous way....... open your home and garage, if you have a garage, and shelter the homeless.  Set the example.  Be the bright light in your communty.  If you are not willing to do that, then be quiet.  Better yet, you are a lawyer so why don't you start representing the homeless in court.  Free of charge.  Make a name for yourself.

Put up or shut up.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Here in Southern California there are thousands of homeless who have moved into the most expensive areas by the beaches. Almost none of the working population can afford to live there but the homeless can. They do not contribute to society but they want the best that it offers. They get all the free meals, lodging and medical care and then lay about the finest beaches stinking the place up.  Some are crazies and many are "hobos" who have taken up the lifestyle even though they have the means and talent to work. At least once a month a homeless person goes crazy and maims or kills someone for no good reason. What should the proper response be?

Grumbleduke's picture

well, if that's so great as you describe then you should go in on the racket. Seems like living the life.

And, as a side benefit you get to flip the finger to the taxman, accelerating the demise of the system. Win-win, right?

Muddy1's picture


Here is a current report taking the other side of the issue from your bleeding heart, today, a news report,

TheReplacement's picture

In a lot of places it is probably illegal to live in a garage due to code violations for a living space.  The home part though would be difficult to outlaw.  And just think, once they are not homeless you can actually feed them.

meditate_vigorously's picture

#prisonplanet (I don't use twitter, its just a meme)

I hope everyone remembers that the police state began with prohibition and morphed to any even more egregious form with the "war on drugs", which is just a war on liberty and the American People.


Only bigly delicious chocolate cake permitted business owners are allowed to sell cake for the going rate. 

No fucking cake for homeless and FEMA camp inhabitants - just green crackers and greasy soap made in house.  

Raffie's picture

People rally for illegals to be in sanctuary cities but being homeless Americans is against the law.

OUCH! That hurt my brain.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Please refrain from using common sense and critical thinking.

You might hurt yourself, become fully disabled and a teat sucker of the state. We need productive slaves, not teat suckers.

Lorca&#039;s Novena's picture

Put them all to work along the border with AR's, give them canopy tents and military rations... If some want to actually "work" pay them to shovel a trench for the new wall.


1. They make money

2. they eat

3. they shoot invaders.


win win win

cesarsp_us's picture

Racist and stupid and heartless..bravo

cesarsp_us's picture

Racist and stupid and heartless..bravo

unsafe-space-time's picture

What is racist, stupid, and heartless is the law that prevents me from shooting you, your friends and family.

Lorca&#039;s Novena's picture

Racist defending my own country from leeching scum? project much? GTFO

gespiri's picture

This is exactly what's gonna happen when the economy collapses, but on a much larger scale.  The have-nots will be bused away by the haves.

Get out of the big cities while you can and plan for something remote in the mountains while learning how to live off the land.  

Nexus789's picture

The modern equivalent of the 'Poorhouse'. Are we more enlightened?  No.  We have gone in a big circle and are going back to serfdom. 

cherry picker's picture

Judges are paid by .gov.  We know who will win.

They prophesied this stuff eons ago.

I feel bad for the homeless.  It could happen to anyone given the right circumstances.

People who want to treat their fellow human beings like criminals because they have no money are scum of the earth.

cherry picker's picture

I remember during the crisis watching a video of a fellow in his fifties, a self employed web designer, getting evicted from his apartment.

He was sitting in his car bawling his eyes out.  I guess he had no family, no one to turn to.

He was down on his luck is all, or that is what it appeared like.  I've heard similar stories about families.  Not all are 'bums' or addicts.

These laws are sick, just like the people who make them.  It is OK to spend billions on military but the poor?  Forget it.

Nexus789's picture

Unless they volunteer to die in the mercenary army. 

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

In a police state of slaves all activites are criminal.

Offthebeach's picture

Everything not expressly permitted is illegal!

espirit's picture



No, everything is illegal.



Ayn Rand said: “The hallmark of authoritarian systems is the creation of innumerable, indecipherable laws. Such systems make everyone an un-indicted felon and allow for the exercise of arbitrary government power via selective prosecution.

nmewn's picture

"Where are these homeless? I have a job for them, with full medical!" - Robert Creamer ;-)

TheBigCluB's picture

more organs for better prices..winning

Twee Surgeon's picture

With Free! Hep included ! Yay!

wolfnipplechips's picture

Well, they don't throw cannabis users in jail anymore, so have to fill them up with someone. There's $$ to be made.

Herp and Derp's picture

There are some sad situations, but there are many homeless that delibarately live that way to escape societal laws.  Kidnapping and raping teenage girls in Seattle's homeless camps.  Cities that support homeless collect more homeless from far away.  Seattle's simpathy and tolerance has done nothing but create a bigger theft, drug, and now child molesting situation in the city.  The city also has more than enough housing for homeless, yet the city and the homeless refuse to accept placement.

Ms No's picture

I think it's been borderline illegal for quite some time.  Most of these pandhandlers I wont give a dime to because they are pressuring you with guilt and absolute expectation that you give them something.  You know the type, the ones that walk along the road and stare you down.  Most of them are healthy working age men.  Likely a lot of them are dangerous because they sure have no qualms being bully-ish. 

A couple months ago though, I saw I guy in a parking lot with a cart who looked very new at homeless.  He was older, he seemed ashamed and had a couple pieces of decent looking luggage in there.  It was hot and you could tell he didn't know what the hell he was doing.  It looked like an eviction situation for somebody that had no family or something.  I decided to drive towards him and give him twenty bucks.  He was super thankful and about started crying, it super sucked.

With so many people living by 30 day increments it's not going to take much.  The cost of housing is insane. 

TheBigCluB's picture

This ia a sad tale.. Everyone should keep a van in running shape..just in case

Lost in translation's picture

Plenty of homeless near the VA in downtown/midtown off of Indian School and around 7th, but most I see never beg. Not over there.


datbedank's picture

Good and it should be illegal!

I'm sick and tired of these tent cities popping up all over the sun belt. These homeless dregs haven't fallen on hard times. No, they're either pill poppers, meth heads, alcoholics, or drug addicts of some kind that realized they make more money pan handling to feed their habits than working a minimum wage job.

These bums end up leaving trash strewn all over the god damn place while they live on the side walks pissing and shitting all over the place. 

Unless you're a veteran or mentally ill  (they get special treatment and places to go) you have zero sympathy from me. The best way to end homelessness is to put them into forced work camps where they build plastic crap to compete with the chinese. 

Edit: mentally ill is defined as "hearing crazy ass voices" not this woe is me i'm depressed crap. 

TheBigCluB's picture

wow.. you b a bad ass.. so i suppose the answer is drone strikes or flame throwers?

Indelible Scars's picture

I wouldn't go that far but they really should not be shitting and pissing everywhere and rubbing it on the doorhandles and railing we all touch every day. Having said that, I don't live near the smelly bums so fuck it.

chiquita's picture

Aberdeen, MD recently tried to deal with their homeless problem by instituting a $50 per night charge for anyone who was sleeping outdoors (or in other words homeless as opposed to just "camping out").  If these people had $50 per night, they wouldn't need to sleep outside.  This was rescinded, but it's just one of many of the draconian methods cities and towns are trying to put in place to push the homeless out to make them go somewhere else.  Instead of trying to come up with a solution--such as some of the possibly absurd, but maybe not so suggestions here.

koan's picture

Read your history....

Depression era shanty towns burned down and families driven away or beaten by hired men with clubs, if you got a job you didn't care if you got a break or fair pay you were happy to be working.
And forget about justice, there will be so much injustice there can be no justice.

No folks, it's time for the draft, and a war, and a "suspension of rights" for the cause.

tmosley's picture

There wasn't much in the way of capital back then. Today it is easy to support those who are willing to try to get back on their feet long enough for them to do so, and there are numerous organizations that see to that.

These people are NOT fit to be soldiers. They aren't fit to be ANYTHING. Most of them just need to be locked up in an asylum far from view.

moonmac's picture

Old drunken wino's got replaced with homeless 20 something's who have well fed dogs, I-phones and fat sacks of weed. If they still don't have access to mommy's credit card it's because they've burned so many bridges with family and friends they must rely on hard working taxpayers to support their lazy and disgusting lifestyles.

Ms No's picture

What is going on with these pandhandlers with dogs?  How can you have a dog if you can't properly care for it?  They are using them for manipulation.  That is sick.  If I ended up screwed and homeless with my dog out there I would put her down the second her life became misery.  (I couldn't really give her away because she would literally die without me.  She is one of those.)

If you think about it, almost all manipulation is evil.  Anytime somebody is pushing against you to get something from you or cause an emotional reaction in you to achieve some ends for themselves, screw them.  That is a malignant trait as far as I'm concerned.  None of us would do that if we were in their situation.  I wouldn't demand anything from anybody or use extreme pressure and guilt.  Worse case scenario and I was going to be ass raped weekly on the streets, face down in a puddle by meth heads, while starving, it's time to find a bridge.  

I don't remember the number but something like 40-50 thousand people committed suicide last year.  They call that depression but maybe it wasn't.  Maybe it's people being completely broke and having their backs against the wall.  

IndyPat's picture

Roll down the window and hand the guy a Korean cookbook.

I'm nothing if not a problem solver.

Ms No's picture

We do have a lot of scary pit bulls here.  They are killing other dogs all the time.  Mexicans only buy put bulls or chihuahuas.  Can't wait until those things start running wild in packs like a third world country.  Surprisingly wild stock burros are really good at killing dogs.  My friend has always had one around and they do not tolerate BS from dogs.  He killed a couple put bulls and taught the horses how to do it.  That place is like a pit bull graveyard.  They stomp them over and over with both front feet.  There is a Mexican neighborhood close by so there are always more coming.


IndyPat's picture

Figured they'd just punt them across the pasture.

clade7's picture

Oh Man!  Are you killin it tonight~!  LOL!

Indelible Scars's picture

Really now?

how are we going to be treating one another when the economy completely collapses?


We are going to shoot them, that's how. As if you didn't know that already. LOL Dickhead. Most people have no excuse for being homeless apart from being lazy bums. There are places for people to live that have no money even if they spend what they have on dope and booze.