Nov 18, 2013–
The Panhandling Bill
Baltimore City Council Bill 13-0186 was heard in front of the City Council on Nov. 4th and again on Nov. 18th, 2013. The bill proposed to add amendments to the existing city laws regarding panhandling. This bill would only further criminalize homelessness and poverty while ignoring the root problems.
The City Council bill stood in stark conflict with Baltimore City’s own “10 Year Plan to End Homelessness,” which indicates that people experiencing homelessness are more likely to be arrested for nuisance crimes than the stably housed. The plan also cites a study on the cost of homelessness and incarceration versus supportive housing:
“Incarcerations decreased by more than one-third in the New York City group after placement in supportive housing, leading to a decrease in associated costs per person to $456 per year from $1,013, a savings of 55%.” – Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services
Public costs decrease when a person becomes housed. A study by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority cites that a homeless individual costs the system five time more than their counterpart in supportive housing in ER visits, shelter costs, and incarceration fees.
The bill did not address the root problem – a lack of affordable housing. Instead of criminalizing poverty, we should prioritize our resources on evidenced-based solutions to ending homelessness. To combat this, HON facilitated a discussion between council members, city stakeholders, and people directly experiencing homelessness, and created a larger public discourse around the issues of homelessness and human rights. We then used direct action to bring larger public attention to this issue, ultimately killing the bill.
We must take real action on the persistent issue of homelessness in Baltimore by investing in resources and policies that address the structural causes of homelessness. We will continue to oppose such targeted measures that do nothing but penalize people living in poverty. We demand our city step up and begin addressing the root causes of poverty – failed development, lack of living wages and a lack of affordable housing – rather than trying to ignore and marginalize its symptoms. Our work is far from over.
Housing is a human right…Homes, not handcuffs!