Criminalizing homelessness raises constitutional concerns. For example, some courts uphold that begging is protected under the First Amendment as freedom of speech. When police search the belongings of a homeless person without a search warrant, they could be violating the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Jailing and imposing penalties on homeless people for sleeping in public or loitering when they have nowhere else to go, could be a violation of the Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
For sure criminalizing homelessness does nothing to deter homelessness. It only makes it infinitely more difficult for the homeless person to get on their feet and for those trying to help them.
If someone has broken the law they deserve to be punished, but criminalizing homelessness exacerbates the problem. I believe we in Laguna are capable of something better than this.
Utah has reduced its number of chronically homeless by 74 percent. They are out to end homelessness in their state by 2015.
They found that it cost less to give away apartments with wrap around services to the homeless than it did to criminalize them. They calculated the cost of ER visits, police calls, ticketing and jailing cost more than an apartment with a caseworker. This is all documented on line for anyone wanting verification.
With all the creative minds in Laguna surely we can at least match what was done in Utah.
Jessica deStefano, Laguna Beach
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