criminalization of homelessness

Being homeless might be a crime, and “aiding and abetting” homeless people by giving them food might be illegal as well.

Regarding criminality of homelessness:

South Carolina’s capital city is dishing out some southern discomfort following a controversial decision to criminalize its homeless.

On Aug. 13, the Columbia City Council approved a plan that effectively makes homelessness illegal in parts of the city. The proposal forces those who sleep outdoors to be sent to a shelter on the outskirts of town. Those who don’t comply will be rounded up and forced to leave or sent to the slammer.

Regarding giving the homeless food:

The Raleigh (North Carolina) Police Department threatened to arrest members of a nonprofit religious group while they fed the local homeless population this past Saturday, according to a spokesman for Love Wins Ministries. Rev. Hugh Hollowell, pastor and Director of Love Wins, said that volunteers from his group were handing out coffee and sausage biscuits to several dozen homeless in downtown Raleigh when the police arrived….

Police justified the crackdown by claiming that there has been excessive litter in public parks on Monday mornings. Both volunteer groups denied the allegations.

My instinct here is that there’s pressure on police to “clean up” these areas. And poor people aren’t going to be able to wage a legal battle, or do much of anything in their defense, for that matter. In instances where they are fined and unable to pay up, jail is where they will end up regardless.

At least when I shop in downtown Columbia, Raleigh, or anywhere else, I won’t have my heartstrings pulled by the sob stories sleeping on the park benches or huddled on the cold side walk.

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