Unemployment rates are reported to be low, and wages high. Yet there is still an extraordinary amount of homeless people living in the United States. In an article entitled “The Criminalization of Homelessness” Celine-Marie Pascale tries to convey how the homeless are being treated unfairly by society. Criminalization might be a little too strong a word to apply to the punishment of homeless people, but Pascale is trying to make a statement about the homeless situation in the United States today. I would like to take a closer look at this article and examine the points she is trying to make.
Pascale begins her article by stating that many U. S. cities are enacting laws which would punish homeless individuals for doing things many ordinary’ people do all the time. For instance, loitering or sleeping in public (320). She states that the California Homeless and Housing Coalition estimates that there are around a million homeless people in California alone.
Eight self governed cities in southern California and at least one city in northern California passed anti-sleeping laws, says Pascale (320). Another law in the city of San Francisco states that it is “illegal to linger for more than 60 seconds within 30 feet of an automatic teller in use” (321). The city of San Francisco spent a lot of time and money to arrest 15 people for begging in 1993 and Pascale alleges that there are several other major cities in the U. S. with similar laws (321). According to Pascale, Berkeley uses trespassing laws and loitering laws to keep people off the sidewalks and away from places like parks and laundromats.
And in Santa Cruz you can be arrested for sitting on a sidewalk, sleeping outside, or even sleeping in a car (321). Pascale asserts that the reason for these laws is to protect the businesses located around these areas. She also says that “no one wants to run a guantlet of panhandlers to get to a boutique or step over people sleeping on the sidewalk to buy a cappuccino” (321). And for that reason, most business owners think it reflects badly on them if there are homeless people loitering or sleeping in front of their store (321). Pascale points out that, in general, most people believe that it is the individual’s fault that they are homeless and has nothing to do with society (322).
She also states that these laws are made to benefit the lucky people with houses rather than helping with the problem of homelessness. Pascale concludes her article by citing another law the city of Berkeley is considering; an individual can only carry one shopping bag full of their own personal possessions (322). Pascale used quite a few statistics and cited all of her sources. The article is, for the most part, fairly credible and there is no doubt as to its validity. Her aim is to persuade people that it isn’t right to punish homeless people by establishing a bunch of laws to keep them from bothering the rest of us.
One main point of her argument is that we have a problem with homelessness in this country and we are not going in the right direction in trying to fix the problem. Pascale also points out that there are far more homeless people than there are shelters for. The problem is a lot bigger than we can handle. I think she makes her point very well that homeless people are starting to be treated differently than they have in the past. She gave several examples, but they could have been a little more clear and maybe had some more details.
For instance, the group of people that were arrested in Santa Cruz by riot police while they were eating free soup could have been drunk, or maybe they were disturbing the peace. It’s hard to believe that riot police would be called out to arrest someone for eating on a public sidewalk, just because they were homeless. If they were arrested just because they were homeless, she should’ve stated that they weren’t doing .