Department of Justice Looks into Boise’s Criminalization of Homeless People
Date:  08-10-2015

Arresting people for being homeless is not the solution for this growing population
Being homeless should not be a crime, yet cities throughout the country often pass laws that do not allow people who are homeless to panhandle or sleep outdoors.

Since it was created, Reentry Central has posted numerous articles about formerly incarcerated people who become homeless and face re-criminalization because of it including 11-5-10 San Francisco to Citizens: Don’t Be Homeless During the Day, and 11-3-14 Fortune Society Sues Mega-Landlord Over Refusal to Rent Apartments to People with a Past Criminal History.)

On August 6, 2015 the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest of Interest Regarding the United States against the policy of the City of Boise, Idaho to arrest homeless people for sleeping in public places. The Statement of Interest was made in reference to Bell v. City of Boise, a lawsuit brought by homeless people in Boise against The City of Boise, the Boise Police Department, and Chief of Police, Michael Masterson.

The following is a copy of the DOJ’s concerns concerning the homeless population in Boise.

Statement of Interest of Interest Regarding the United States

On any given night in the United States, half a million people are likely to be experiencing homelessness.1 Homeless individuals are a diverse population, including children, families, veterans, and the elderly. The causes of homelessness are also varied. In recent years, some people who were affected by the economic downturn and foreclosure crisis have become homeless.2 Some homeless individuals have serious and persistent physical or behavioral health conditions that neither they nor the communities in which they live have sufficient services to accommodate. As a result, these individuals are unable to obtain permanent housing.3 Other individuals are homeless because of circumstances beyond their control; they are victims of domestic violence and trafficking, or youth who are separated from their families.4 These individuals must find space in a public shelter or sleep on the street.

For many homeless people, finding a safe and legal place to sleep can be difficult or even impossible. In many cities, shelters are unable to accommodate all who are homeless. 5 In 2014, 42% of homeless individuals slept in unsheltered, public locations—under bridges, in cars, in parks, on the sidewalk, or in abandoned buildings.6 Read more.