Twitter Chat: Should homelessness be a crime?


A new report observes an increase in laws that criminalize homelessness in U.S. cities. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“Imagine a world where it is illegal to sit down. Could you survive if there were no place you were allowed to fall asleep, to store your belongings or to stand still?” These are the questions asked in a new report released last week by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty on the criminalization of homelessness in U.S. cities.

Over the weekend, PBS NewsHour reported on the Law Center’s findings, which were based on an analysis of laws in 187 U.S. cities from 2009 to present.

The report goes into detail on why the Law Center believes such laws are ineffective. Citing research comparing the cost of homelessness (including law enforcement and medical expenses) with the cost of affordable housing, the report suggests that criminalizing homelessness ultimately costs cities more than providing shelter. It also states that “criminal convictions — even for minor crimes — can create barriers to obtaining critical public benefits … making homelessness more difficult to escape.”

We want to hear from you. Are laws against loitering, sitting and sleeping in public ethical? What can U.S. cities do to end chronic homelessness? Share your thoughts in a Twitter chat hosted by @NewsHour from 1-2 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 24th. We will be joined by the National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty (@NLCHPhomeless) and the National Coalition for the Homeless (@Ntl_Homeless). Follow along and respond using #NewsHourChats.

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