Do Homeless People Have Rights?

Since homeless people are still “citizens”, perhaps a better question would be, “should homeless people have fewer rights than anyone else?”

Regardless of how you personally answer that question, the reality for homeless people is that laws are being created all over the country that limit the rights of some people, only because they are homeless.    And, where certain laws are still the same for homeless and non-homeless people, the police are increasingly enforcing such laws unequally against the homeless.  For example, we all enjoy our city parks, we know them to be public places were people can go, either alone, or with a group, and leisurely enjoy their time, either playing a game of Frisbee catch, or flying a kite, having a picnic, or doing absolutely nothing at all but sit on the grass and stare at the clouds above.  Yet it has happened where police have ticketed for trespassing in a park, even though it was in the middle of the day.   You can go to the park with friends, spread out a blanket, open up a picnic basket and make sandwiches for your group, but if you go to the park, spread out a blanket, open up a picnic basket and make sandwiches for a few homeless people, you can be ticketed for it and told to leave the park.    So much for equal protection under the law!

This kind of thing isn’t just happening in parks, it’s happening everywhere homeless people go.  If you are a tourist and put your luggage down on the sidewalk for a while, the police will not bother you, but if you are a homeless person, and you put your backpack down on the sidewalk for a while, you will be ticketed for obstructing a passageway.   And these tickets come with hefty fines.  If you are homeless, more than likely you have no money, certainly not enough money for paying a ticket like this.  So then homeless people get in additional trouble for not paying their fines.   Get enough fines against you may end up doing jail time.   Of course then you are also burdened with having to pay court costs as well.

This kind of harassment can and usually does have a negative affect on homeless people, the financial burden makes it even more difficult for them to leave homelessness, as well as causing them to become depressed and less motivated to rejoin society.   From what I’ve heard, the police believe that such tactics will motivate the homeless to get off the streets, but that just isn’t true.  It makes homeless people’s situation worse, not better.  When law enforcement “cracks down” on homeless people, homeless people just go into hiding, and when the cops finally decide to do something else with their time, the homeless come back to the streets, usually in numbers even larger than before.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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