Bans on feeding homeless people, prohibitions on sitting or lying down on a sidewalk, or outlawing sleeping in cars. These are just a few of the fresh ways cities across the country are trying to force homeless people off the streets through a patchwork of petty local laws that aim to penalize them rather than help them.
Last week 90-year-old Arnold Abbott of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was cited by police for violating a city ban on “public feeding” when he tried to dish up some pasta and chicken stew to the hungry in his area. That incident underscores how cities are squeezing out homeless people by restricting normal human behaviors in public areas, such as sitting on a curb, napping on a park bench, or leaving a bag in a doorway.
The laws primarily affect the homeless because they have nowhere to go other than public spaces. “It’s making their life harder,” said Michael Stoops, director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless. “It’s trying to make the homeless less visible.”
According to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, these laws have proliferated since 2011—bans on public camping are up 60 percent; sleeping in vehicles, up 119 percent; sitting or lying on sidewalks, up 43 percent.
Here’s a look at some of the troubling anti-homeless legal tactics that are gaining popularity