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U.S. Cities Cracking Down on Homelessness

Three major American cities this week—San Francisco, Dallas, and Los Angeles—responded to the growing number of homeless living on the streets with sweeps, arrests, and seizures, respectively.
March 3, 2016, 9am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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It's been hard to avoid evidence of the criminalization of homelessness around the country over the past week.

First came the news, reported by Gale Holland for the Los Angeles Times, that the city of Los Angeles had confiscated several tiny homes donated to homeless living on the streets of that city.

A few days later, Tasha Tsiaperas reported that Dallas had arrested more than 200 people in Downtown for violations of the city's panhandling ordinance. The arrests came after "Downtown residents and workers have complained for months that they are routinely asked for money," writes Tsiaperas.

Finally, in a move that attracted national attention, San Francisco swept away a homeless camp located on Division Street, citing health concerns. Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross reported, via City Hall sources, that "[h]aving the health department take the lead on declaring Division Street uninhabitable was intended in part to deflect criticism that Lee’s administration is criminalizing homelessness."

Writing for Governing magazine, J.B. Wogan describes the actions of San Francisco as doing just that—maybe even skirting federal guidelines about what not to do when relocating homeless populations. Wogan also includes a list of cities, including Baltimore and Honolulu, that have recently struggled to deal with homeless encampments.

For more on the San Francisco homeless sweep, see earlier coverage from C.W. Nevius about the neighborhood outcry over the homeless encampment and an op-ed by Jennifer Friedenback, who presents a withering critique of how the city handled the people living in the camp on Division Street. 

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Published on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 in San Francisco Chronicle
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