|Criminalization of Homelessness:|
How did the California Continuums of Care recently respond when asked to select the specific strategies implemented by the CoC to ensure that homelessness is not criminalized in the CoC's geographic area?
(A brief prepared by Joe Colletti, PhD and Sofia Herrera, PhD)
When asked by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the recently submitted 2015 Continuum of Care application to select the specific strategies implemented by the CoC to ensure that homelessness is not criminalized in the CoC's geographic area, 40 California Continuums of Care (CoC) responded1 as follows:
Table 1. California CoCs and Selected Strategies to Ensure Homelessness is not Criminalized in the CoCs Geographic Area.
Total # and % of CoCs that selected the specific strategy
Engaged/educated local policy-makers
Engaged/educated law enforcement
Implemented community-wide plans
No strategies have been implemented
What is particularly noteworthy is that only half (50%) of the CoCs selected "Implemented community-wide plans whereas nearly 100% or 39 out of 40 selected "engaged/educated local policy-makers" and "engaged/educated law enforcement.
A list of the 40 CoCs and their individual responses to each of the four goals are noted in Appendix A of this brief.
Selecting the specific strategies implemented by a CoC to ensure that homelessness is not criminalized in the CoC's geographic area, is a direct result of the filing of a brief by the Obama Administration arguing that criminalization violates the Eighth Amendment's protections against cruel and unusual punishment (see http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/643766/download). The intent behind having CoCs select the specific strategies noted above was for CoCs to realize that the Administration was taking initial steps to connect federal funding to the fight against criminalizing homelessness.
The intent behind having CoCs select the specific strategies noted above was for CoCs to realize that the overall score of their applications could be negatively impacted if unable to select these strategies. While the number of points lost would not likely result in loss of funding for renewal applications, the loss of a point could make the difference as to whether or not new applications submitted by Continuums of Care are funded, especially regarding the Permanent Housing Bonus which has been very competitive in the past.
Thus, the irony is that if criminalizing actions are left unchecked by Continuums of Care, this can result in the loss of funding for the appropriate alternative to criminalization, which is permanent housing. In other words, funding for housing for the very persons that are being criminalized for their homelessness can be lost if laws and policies that criminalize them are left unrestrained.
Click here to read the entire brief.
1Forty-three (43) continuums of care are listed in California by HUD. However, three of them did not receive CoC funding from HUD for the past couple of years. Thus, 40 California Continuums of Care submitted FY 2015 Continuum of Care Applications to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.