Criminalizing Homelessness

Posted on April 15, 2021 View all news

The cycle of homelessness and poverty endures in part due to the US criminal justice system. Behaviors that are linked to mental illness or are vital to the existence and survival of unhoused people are deemed illegal.

People experiencing homelessness suffer from mental illness far more prevalently than the general population. In 2020, 40% of the women coming to Sarah’s Circle reported mental health problems or the presence of mental illness. Generally, due to mental health episodes and lack of proper care, individuals experiencing homelessness will wind up behind bars and, while imprisoned, receive zero mental health care. This only serves to retraumatize these individuals and keep them from reentering society. 

In many towns and cities across the US, harmless practices will be made illegal to keep people who are homeless from congregating in certain areas. But without adequate resources, where are they to go? A proposition in one city could make it illegal to camp in certain public places – to sit or lie on public sidewalks and in some outdoor areas.  This perpetuates the cycle of poverty by creating a criminal record, making housing and employment more difficult to obtain.

At Sarah’s Circle, we believe every woman deserves the chance to start anew, be housed, and receive the support she needs. Through our trauma-informed and harm reduction approach, we put housing first with no barriers to service and help women get back on their feet, no matter what their past and present may be.

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