Stop the Criminalization of Homelessness!
Many communities in the United States are dealing with the issue of homelessness, not by trying to solve the problems that cause it, but by criminalizing it.  Please help in the effort to end this counterproductive reaction by learning more about homelessness, the criminalization of homelessness, and by taking action against the criminalization of homelessness.

Let's work to make sure that jails do not become the new "homeless shelter".










Homelessness in the United States
To be considered homeless, a person must meet the federal definition of homelessness set forth in the McKinney Act of 1987.  According to federal law, a person is homeless if they:
1.  Lack a regular, fixed, and adequate nighttime residence (or)
2.  Live in a shelter or transitional housing residence for homeless persons (or)
3.  Live in a temporary residence for persons waiting for institutionalization (or)
4.  Are sleeping in a place not intended for human beings (or)
5.  Will be evicted within one week from their home (or)
6.  Will be discharged within one week from institutions where they have lived for more than 30 days in a row and they have not found a place to live and they have no money or other resources to find a place to live.

Persons in jail are NOT considered homeless while in jail.  Persons living in housing with relatives or friends are NOT considered homeless.

Some statistics regarding homelessness in America
    More than an estimated 750,000 homeless people are on the streets any night in the United States
        Only 250,000 shelter spaces are available
        This situation leaves over 500,000 people with no where else to be but in public (US Conference of
                Mayors, 2001)
    Atlanta has roughly 2,600 shelter beds in the Metropolitan area; estimates of the homeless population
                in the Atlanta area range between 11,000 and 20,000 (Research Atlanta, Inc., 1997)
    The Northeast Georgia Homeless Coalition estimates that 246 adults and 27 children are currently
            homeless in the Athens area alone
*These numbers do not reflect those described as "unsheltered homeless"
 
 
 
 

Please use the web site resources below to learn more about homelessness in the United States

National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty National Housing Institute
National Coalition for the Homeless National Alliance to End Homelessness

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What is the "Criminalization of Homelessness"?
The criminalization of homelessness in the United States can be defined as the creation of and execution of "laws [and practices] that discriminate against homeless people, including laws that specifically target them or activities they must engage in because they are homeless" (borrowed from www.nlchp.org)
 
 

Society is responding to the problem of homelessness, not through prevention, but through prosecution.  As a result, money that could be better spent on helping homeless individuals find affordable housing, go to school, get a job, or even eat, is being spent to incarcerate them.

In the state of Georgia, an average of $18,000 is spent to incarcerate one inmate for one year.
Could this money be better spent?!?

Communities are creating ordinances that make it illegal for homeless people to engage in necessary activities such as:
    Sleeping in the park / urban camping
    Sitting or lying on public benches for long periods of time; some cities actually have ANTI-SITTING
     LAWS!

    Urinating on public property when no public toilets are available
    Panhandling
    Eating out of trashcans; the Phoenix, AZ City Council "ORDERED PUBLIC WORKS
            DEPARTMENTS TO SPRAY KEROSENE ON TRASH AS TO RENDER
            ANY LEFT-OVER FOOD INEDIBLE" (from Michael Higgins' "Tent City:
            Struggling for Shelter in Phoenix")

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So What Can I Do?!?
1.  Learn all you can about homelessness and the criminalization of homelessness.  Click here to join the mailing list for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

2.  Learn about the laws regarding homelessness in your area.  In the Athens, Georgia area, go to the Athens-Clarke County government web site and visit the ACC Ordinances page.

3.  In Northeast Georgia, contact the Northeast Georgia Homeless Coalition at (706) 546-6865 or negahomelesscoalition@hotmail.com.  To find out how to contact the homeless coalition in your area, click here and enter your state.

4.  Join the National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project.  The NHCROP monitors the criminalization of homelessness across the country and takes steps to stop this disturbing trend.  To find out about how to contact your regional field site, call Michael Stoops at (202) 727-6444 x19 oe e-mail him at mstoops@nationalhomeless.org.

5.  Take a stand!  If you witness an act of mistreatment of a homeless individual, click here and file an incident report.

6.  Write or call your state and national representatives, mayor, governor, and president and tell them about the importance of supporting programs that support the homeless population.  Below are links that can assist you in finding out who your local and national politicians are and how to contact them.
 

To find your Federal Representative, click here

You may also call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121; for TTY (202) 225-1904
 

 

The Honorable George Walker Bush, President
president@whitehouse.gov
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Phone (202) 456-1111  comment line
Fax (202) 456-2461  comment line
TTY (202) 456-6213  comment line
To find your Federal Senator, click here

You may also call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121; for TTY (202) 225-1904
 

 

The Honorable Richard Cheney, Vice President
vice.president@whitehouse.gov
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW 
Washington, DC 20500
Phone (202) 456-1111  comment line
Fax (202)456-2461  comment line
TTY (202) 456-6213  comment line

 


 
 




If you live in the Athens, GA area, use the information below to contact your political leaders.
Federal Senator Max Cleland
http://cleland.senate.gov/
461 Senate Dirksen Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone (202) 224-3521
Fax (202) 224-0072
Federal Representative John Linder
http://linder.house.gov
1727 Longworth Building 
Washington, DC 20515
Phone (202) 225-4272
Fax (202) 225-4696
The Honorable Roy E. Barnes, Governor
State Capitol Building 
Constituent Services Room 111
Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone (404) 656-1776
Fax (404) 657-7332
Federal Senator Zell Miller
http://miller.senate.gov/
257 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone (202) 224-3643
Fax (202) 228-2090
TDDY (202) 228-2105
To find your Federal Representative, click here

To find your Federal Senator, click here

You may also call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121; for TTY (202) 225-1904

The Honorable Mark Taylor, Lt. Governor
240 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone (404) 656-5030
Mayor Doc Eldridge
mayor@athensclarkecounty.com
PO Box 1868
Athens, GA 30603-1868
Phone (706) 613-3010 (work)
          (706) 548-6141 (home)
To find Athens City Commissioners' contact information, click here 

 

To find a State House Representative's contact information, click here

To find a State Senate Representative's contact information, click here
 

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Created by Mary Glenn, Avril Phillips-Minnis, Jennifer Robinson, and Angela Sanders.  Created April 2002.  University of Georgia.  Thank you for visiting our site!