The criminalization of homelessness – the punitive social reaction to life-sustaining behaviors and activities engaged in by persons experiencing homelessness – has been dramatically on the rise across the nation for more than two decades. This regressive approach in response to burgeoning homelessness, implemented primarily via the agency of municipal government, has been documented in seminal reports from the National Coalition for the Homeless, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and regional homeless advocacy organizations. Citizens in every state in the nation have suffered an increase in the number of laws prohibiting life-sustaining activities like camping, sleeping in vehicles, begging/panhandling, performing bodily functions (even in the absence of public restrooms), storing personal property outdoors and, perhaps most egregiously, the sharing of food by both secular and faith-based institutions.
These oppressive measures serve no documented function whatsoever in terms of moving society in the direction of ending homelessness. Thus, in response, homeless persons and advocates have united to bring ‘Right-to- Rest’ or Homeless Bill of Rights legislation to their respective states. Three states now include HBoR’s among their statutes – Rhode Island, Connecticut and Illinois – while a host of others – California, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Delaware – have proposed similar legislation in recent years but have yet to see them passed.
A variety of reports suggest Florida may be the #1 state in the nation in terms of its criminalization of homelessness. Florida therefore needs to adopt such a measure for the protection of the basic human rights and dignity of homeless persons more than any other state.