Friday, April 14, 2006

Homelessness is not a crime...

... according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:

Los Angeles' policy of arresting homeless people for sitting, lying or sleeping on public sidewalks as "an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter" violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and punishment, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The pattern of logic develops...

"Because there is substantial and undisputed evidence that the number of homeless persons in Los Angeles far exceeds the number of available shelter beds at all times, including on the night" the plaintiffs were arrested or cited, "Los Angeles has encroached upon" the plaintiffs' 8th Amendment protections "by criminalizing the unavoidable act of sitting, lying or sleeping at night while being involuntarily homeless," Wardlaw wrote.

Now Judge Wardlaw, who wrote the opinion of the case, is making an interesting argument from the outset. If you notice, she clearly is not making an argument about becoming homeless; quite the contrary. She begins her argument after homelessness has already been achieved. To her, that is where she has decided to begin the relevancy of the Los Angeles ordinance. But it is here that she undermines the entire idea of a community setting up its own standards and whether she knows it or not (I would argue that she does indeed understand the implications of her argument), Judge Wardlaw has stated quite clearly that it does not matter as such that the person became homeless to start with.

It might be advantageous to explain it another way. The crime being committed in Los Angeles-homelessness-is a degradation of the community and therefore, sleeping on the streets, or any public place, is an attempt to devalue what the public has created. It must be noted here that rational men can disagree on whether or not sleeping on a street corner is degrading the public works, but that is a standard set within each city or county (possibly state). Los Angeles has decided that becoming homeless does not make you less human (Why do I understand Judge Wardlaw's opinion to say as such?), but it does not mean you have a right to degrade the public works others have labored for.

Wardlaw said that "as a result of the expansive reach of the [Los Angeles ordinance], the extreme lack of available shelter in Los Angeles, and the large homeless population, thousands of people violate the Los Angeles ordinance every day and night, and many are arrested, losing what few possessions they may have."

This is simply astonishing. Los Angeles is not saying homelessness itself is a crime (although Judge Wardlaw reads that as such), but the abuse and degradation of the public works is. Just as Los Angeles, and every other city in the United States, states that selling a product is not a crime, but selling crack cocaine is. Specific acts of homelessness is criminal, just as specific acts of being a retailer can be.

Judge Wardlaw's rationale states that Los Angeles cannot do as such because in placing a value on the public works, they have stripped away a right of an American citizen. There is nothing "cruel and unusual" about giving value to public works; and there is nothing "cruel and unusual" about expecting a person to either be productive or at the very least, be lazy* and do not degrade the public works. But then again, I doubt highly Judge Wardlaw, or the ACLU for that matter, really care about the substances of their exoteric arguments.

*Yes, of course, there are at times circumstances that can place someone on the streets. But I doubt highly that that is the rule and not the exception.


Blogger The Indigent Blogger said...

From my own experiences with homelessness and the homeless, I can tell you that her comment about the ratio of shelter beds to homeless people is seriously misguided. Many homeless people purposely avoid shelters because shelters usually have certain unpleasant restrictions. First, there is a curfew, which is pretty early (like 8 PM) at most shelters. However, the most egregious requirement is that you have to arrive sober and you cannot bring drugs or alcohol on the premises. This latter restriction usually leads to a significant segment of the homeless population choosing to sleep elsewhere.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Hillary For President said...

Fact is, Bush policy has left many a person on the streets without job. High oil price, iraq war, etc etc.

Fact is, where can a person legally go if every place can say no homeless?

Fact is, this still America. The government is a felon allow people be homeless when we have about 99.9999% of the world's wealth. if not quite that much, then close.

fact is, with hillary clinton for president, people will not need to be on the streets.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Hillary For President said...

my link no work

7:49 AM  
Blogger The Indigent Blogger said...

"fact is, with hillary clinton for president, people will not need to be on the streets."

In that case, criminalizing homelessness should not be a problem once she becomes president because no one will be homeless.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Mr. John Doe Homeless said...

I have been representing a segment of population that has been accelerating in its growth, the increasing numbers of folks that work (or struggle trying), but have had to resort to avoid the excessive cost of housing in order to live within their means while homeless. Not all of us are drug addict, alcoholic, or otherwise mentally handicapped. Some of us are used to working for a living (like many who still live in a building, calling it a home) and despite the difficulties involved in living on the streets & in bushes, or even in vehicles &/or RVs, persist in bettering ourselves from whatever level we’re at.
I am an activist, not by title or declaration, but by the activities during my last 20 years… I fit the definition in its entirety, completely, and exactly! If I seem to have too much to say, my response is that if more people would say more, I wouldn’t have to pontificate so much myself.
You think you have a problem. I have a problem with our elected representatives who make decisions affecting everyone’s life and well being, having the stupidity (especially the arrogance), while the economically challenged strive to live within their means and attempt to better their situation under the extreme hardships already existing…to think a solution would be to create a new law making it a crime and violate Civil Liberties and Constitutional Rights. This all seemed to increase since Homeland security became an accepted catch phrase! The same mentality of firing a shotgun into a crowd to make sure they hit the target!!?! Not only are they restoring vagrancy laws that were abolished, it the police have been ambitious to use Gestapo type tactics (enforcing a created crime) taking “Homeland Security” to excess that the public seems obligated to accept. There is no such thing as complete security… only control and the powers-to-be have sold the public out! Either EXERCISE your Rights or they will be EXORCISED!!!
Being put out of business from new law changes, I opposed the economical trend that has resulted in our current conditions. At 60+, employment isn't plentiful, & I live (within my means) in a RV. If you can relate to the conditions that I have dealt with since 1990, then you know how the very causes of our problems handicap our ability to make progress in improving at all IE: communicate reliably, make effective contacts (or following through in a timely manner) for employment, seeking potential help or even being paid attention to.

Please view my blog and see what I've done with your the links on "Homelessness is not a Crime", at:

1:36 PM  

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