"Over the past year, over two million men, women, and children were homeless" in America. (NLCHP) Homeless people face an intense struggle just to stay alive despite the fact that society turns its head from the problem. The government makes laws that discriminate against homeless people, which make it, illegal for them to survive. The mistreatment of homeless people is an issue that is often ignored in our community. When you see a homeless person on the streets how do you react? Do you turn your head and ignore them? Do you become angry that they are living on the streets? Do you feel frightened and avoid the situation all together? Or do you see these people as human beings and treat them in that way? Homeless people are "subjetc ed to alienation and discrimination by mainstream society". (NLCHP) Most alienation and discrimination comes from the lack of education about homeless people. There are numerous untrue myths about homeless people. Many people believe that homeless people "commit more violent crimes than housed people." (NLCHP) The reality is that homeless Hopper 2 people actually commit less violent crimes than people with homes do. Dr. Pamela Fischer, of John Hopkins University, studied arrest records in Baltimore and discovered that even though homeless people were more likely to commit non-violent and non-destructive crimes, they were less likely to commit violent crimes against people. (NLCHP) The crimes that these people are committing are necessary to keep them alive. These crimes include sleeping, eating, and panhandling. Making it illegal to perform necessary daily activities in public when homeless people have no where else to go makes it impossible for homeless people to avoid violating the law. (NLCHP) Another myth about homeless people is that they do not work and that they get their money from public assistance programs. A study done in Chicago discovered that "39% of homeless people interviewed had worked for some time during the previous month". (NLCHP) Many of the people who do not work are actively trying to find jobs, but are discriminated against by the work force. In an interview done at the River Street Homeless Shelter I found many people who have experienced this discrimination. "People can't get a job without an address. When they use the shelter's address they get turned down." (Mike) Speaking from experience, Mike and other homeless people feel that "the second you put down the shelter's address, they turn you away." (Rick) Many other Hopper 3 homeless people cannot find jobs because they are handicapped or have unstable minds. Those people often try to earn money by selling jewelry or panhandling. This is also illegal. Between the work force and the laws that the government creates, it is impossible for a homeless person to support his or herself. There are many other laws that also discriminate against homeless people. In "liberal" Berkeley the city council voted to make illegal the following actions; sitting on a sidewalk, asking for change near an ATM or parking meter, asking for change after dark, holding a cup, etc . (Ott 18) Also, Santa Cruz currently has a camping ban that prohibits having sleeping materials on the ground between certain hours. Jim, a homeless person in Santa Cruz has seen people with "guns drawn on them, mace sprayed in their face, and hands broken" because they were camping in the woods. (Jim) These rules make it illegal to sleep in the United States. Jim feels that they are using these bans against the homeless to "try and run them out of town". (Jim) Many of these laws that discriminate against homeless people are in diretc violation of the constitution. The first amendment says that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." (Constitution) Making it illegal for homeless people to ask for money limits their right of free speech. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty released a...
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