Throughout the U.S., more and more cities are cracking down on the problem of homelessness "“ not by funding more shelters and job placement programs, but rather by making it illegal for people to not have a roof over their head.
You see, municipal lawmakers seem to think that by criminalizing activities such as pan-handling and loitering, folks that have nothing to lose will be so frightened by the idea of getting arrested or forced to spend a night in jail instead of a cardboard box, that they'll just decide it's best to stop being homeless "“ et voila, problem solved!
According to a recent report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, sleeping in public is against the law in 18% of U.S cities, and in 42% you aren't even allowed to sleep in your own car "“ which, in reality, affects everyone who's ever made the mature decision to sleep off an illegal blood alcohol level in a parking lot instead of endangering innocent lives by driving straight home from the bar.
At any rate, city officials may be hard at work thinking of ways to punish the homeless, but there doesn't seem to be very much effort put into making it easier for those who've hit rock bottom to pull themselves back up. In fact, since 2001, the availability of low-income housing has dropped by 13%.
Sure, a certain percentage of America's pan-handlers sleep on city sidewalks because, despite having affluent parents to live with in the `burbs, they find being a transient more romantic "“ and the rise of such regulations may very well make being a hobo less appealing to those who've made it a lifestyle choice.
But the majority of people you see living out of shopping carts don't have the luxury of simply deciding they're done being vagabonds. As the Executive Director of the Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Mary Foscarinis, astutely pointed out to an NPR correspondent, adding a criminal record to a homeless person's list of setbacks won't help their job or apartment search one bit.