This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages) This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. Please improve this article by removing excessive or inappropriate external links, and converting useful links where appropriate into footnote references. (March 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message) The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article, discuss the issue on the talk page, or create a new article, as appropriate. (December 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this message) This article is written like a personal reflection, personal essay, or argumentative essay that states a Wikipedia editor's personal feelings or presents an original argument about a topic. Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style. (February 2024) (Learn how and when to remove this message) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Anti-homeless architecture[1]

Discrimination against homeless people is the act of treating homeless people or people perceived to be homeless unfavorably. As with most types of discrimination, it can manifest in numerous forms.

Discriminatory legislation regarding homelessness

Main article: Criminalization of homelessness

Use of the law to discriminate against homeless people takes on disparate forms: restricting the public areas in which sitting or sleeping are allowed, ordinances restricting aggressive panhandling,[2] actions intended to divert homeless people from particular areas, penalizing loitering, asocial or antisocial behavior,[3] or unequally enforcing laws on homeless people and not on those who are not homeless.[4] An American Civil Liberties Union report claimed that the government of LA discriminated against the homeless residents. The report lays out the ways such as "harassment, segregation, issuing citations", by which the government discriminates against homeless people and holds back essential services that could save their lives.[5]

There is also potential for individuals experiencing homelessness to face employment discrimination. Many employers require applicants to list home addresses on job applications, which creates potential for an employer to recognize an applicant's address as a homeless shelter. Sarah Golabek-Goldman writes about Ban the Address, a campaign that proposes that employers delay asking about an applicant's address until after the applicant is given a job offer. The campaign seeks to protect individuals experiencing homelessness from discrimination in the hiring process by attempting to eliminate one source of potential employment discrimination.[6]

There are at least five states which consider crimes against homeless people with the reason being due to their homelessness to be a hate crime: Florida, Maine, Washington and Rhode Island. It is also a hate crime statute in Washington, DC.

History of discrimination

Within the US, homeless individuals have faced discriminatory action for decades. American Colonists in the 17th Century believed unhoused individuals to be homeless because of their moral inadequacies. Early views of homeless individuals revolved around a dehumanizing view, and that they were not in good religious standing.

The term "Homeless" was first recorded in the US in the 1870s. This was first used towards individual's that would travel around throughout the country in search of work. This term was created and used towards those that were perceived to be a threat towards the traditional home style life. Stigma and prejudicial view towards these individuals came from the idea that they had strayed from the domestic lifestyle.

In the 1820s less than 7% of Americans lived in cities. The rapid growth of industrialization increased the population sizes in these cities rapidly. The population of Boston, MA between the years of 1820 and 1860 grew 134,551.

In the 1870s, the issue of homelessness became a national issue. Words such as "vagrant" and "bums" began to be used at this time. Veterans of the civil war, displaced persons from the civil war, and immigrant families made up large portions of the homeless population in this era. In 1874 the homeless or "vagrant" population in Boston was reported to be 98,263 individuals.

Anti Vagrancy Laws existed in the US in various forms since the 17th century. These laws often targeted unhoused women and African-Americans. Up until the 1970s, Anti Vagrancy laws punished innumerable amounts of Americans. In 1972 the Supreme Court invalidated and undermined these Anti Vagrancy. The Deinstitutionalization Movement of the 1960s and 1970s released thousands of individuals from Mental Hospitals and Institutions. Many of these individuals became homeless because of this releasing. These individuals suffering from mental illness struggled to survive unhoused.

The modern issue of homelessness in the US has grown exponentially in recent years in part due to housing crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased cost of living.

Anti-camping legislation and policy

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April 2022)

The French novelist Anatole France noted this phenomenon as long ago as 1894, famously observing that "the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges".[7]

In July 2022, The Los Angeles City Council voted 10-1 in favor of expanding Municipal Code 41.18,[8] the anti-camping law banning sitting, sleeping and storing property within 500 feet of several parks, recreation centers and other facilities.[9] Following the council's vote, Councilman Hugo-Martínez, who opposed 41.18, wrote in a Twitter post, "LA's Municipal Code 41.18 criminalizes unhoused people, preventing them from existing in large portions of the city, even as we don't have nearly enough housing or shelter beds to accommodate everyone forced to live on our streets."[10]

Coercive Psycho-pharmaceutical Treatment

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April 2022)

For example, see Homelessness in California § Forced mental-health and addiction treatment

Criminal victimization

See also: Homelessness in the United States § Crimes against homeless people

Precise factors associated with victimization and injury to homeless people are not clearly understood. Nearly one-half of homeless people are victims of violence.[11] There have been many violent crimes committed against homeless people due to their being homeless.[12] A study in 2007 found that this number is increasing.[13] This can be further understood as to why this happens, and supported by another study that found that people do not even perceive homeless people as fully human, neither competent or warm.


Lack of access to public restrooms

Per the National Alliance to End Homelessness,[15] in January 2017, there were a total of 553,742 homeless people accounted for across the United States, including territories. Of those accounted for, 192,875 of them were unsheltered and "lived in a place not meant for human habitation, such as the street or an abandoned building". Many unsheltered homeless camps are located in industrial districts and along highways, far away from public parks facilities where traditional public bathrooms are located. If local municipalities do not provide bathroom access, homeless people are left to urinate and defecate in the streets and waterways near their camps.

Robinson and Sickels with the University of Colorado Denver[16] released a report highlighting the criminalization of homelessness across the State of Colorado. During their research, they found that 83% of the people they interviewed said they were denied bathroom access because they were homeless. Without access to bathrooms, unsheltered homeless populations across the country are living in third-world conditions[clarify]. This, in turn, leads to public health concerns such as the hepatitis A outbreak seen in California. As reported by Kushel with The New England Journal of Medicine,[17] in 2017 alone 649 people in California were infected with hepatitis A; this outbreak began in the homeless population.

Anti-homeless architecture

"Anti-homeless spikes" in front of a window

City and town plans may incorporate hostile architecture, also known as anti-homeless or defensive architecture, to deter homeless people from camping or sleeping in problematic areas.[18] Research conducted by Crisis (based in the UK) recorded that 35% said they were unable to find a free place to sleep as a result of the designs. The named hostile architectures include; anti-homeless spikes, segregated benches and gated doorways.[19]

Due to the politicization of the homelessness problem, the funds to help people with mental illness have been diverted to other areas leaving the mentally ill without any help. Mental health is considered one of the most significant contributing factors to homelessness.[20]

Resources to help

This section's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. See Wikipedia's guide to writing better articles for suggestions. (January 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

People who are homeless struggle with social inclusion. Some are scared to reach out because they fear the discrimination that may come with it. Reconstructing past relationships into something positive can make all the difference.

Another substantial factor is employment. Employment can help these people to feel wanted as well as assist them to get back on their feet. There are some facilities that offer shelter and employment, one being in Los Angeles. “Skid Row,” conducted a study to see what kind of impact this help gives. Homeless people granted the shelter were likelier to want to work. [21]

There are many actions to take when it comes to helping homeless people. Some simple ones are donating clothing, household items, books, and other materials. Other measures that can be taken involve fundraising programs, supporting a homeless shelter, or even helping to raise awareness. [22]

See also


  1. ^ Andreou, Alex (2015-02-18). "Anti-homeless spikes: 'Sleeping rough opened my eyes to the city's barbed cruelty'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2024-02-22.
  2. ^ Criminalizing Crisis: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities (Report). National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. November 2011. Archived from the original on 2017-09-14. Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  3. ^ "Britain: Where have all the homeless gone?". The Economist. Vol. 372, no. 8388. pp. 21–49.
  4. ^ Out of Sight - Out of Mind?. National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. 1999. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-7881-8276-1.
  5. ^ "The ACLU Says There's A War Against Unhoused People In Los Angeles". LAist. 2021-10-26. Retrieved 2021-12-05.
  6. ^ GOLABEK-GOLDMAN, SARAH (2017). "Ban the Address: Combating Employment Discrimination Against the Homeless". The Yale Law Journal. 126 (6): 1788–1868. ISSN 0044-0094. JSTOR 44867953.
  7. ^ France, Anatole (1894). "VII". Le lys rouge (in French). Ils y doivent travailler devant la majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts
  8. ^ Cagle, Kate (July 31, 2022). ""LA poised to expand anti-camping law as vital shelter program ends"". Spectrum News 1. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  9. ^ "LA City Council votes to impose anti-camping law in Westside". Fox 11 Los Angeles. February 15, 2023. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  10. ^ "LA council orders review of effectiveness and financial cost of city's anti-camping law". ABC 7. April 13, 2023. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  11. ^ Meinbresse, M; Brinkley-Rubinstein, L; Grassette, A; Benson, J; Hamilton, R; Malott, M; Jenkins, D (2014). "Exploring the Experiences of Violence Among Individuals Who Are Homeless Using a Consumer-Led Approach". Violence & Victims. 29 (1): 122–136. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.vv-d-12-00069. PMID 24672998. S2CID 36463124.
  12. ^ Fantz, Ashley (February 20, 2007). "Teen 'sport killings' of homeless on the rise". CNN.
  13. ^ Lewan, Todd (April 8, 2007). "Unprovoked Beatings of Homeless Soaring". USA Today. Associated Press.
  14. ^ Johnstone, Melissa; Jetten, Jolanda; Dingle, Genevieve A.; Parsell, Cameron; Walter, Zoe C. (2015). "Discrimination and well-being amongst the homeless: the role of multiple group membership". Frontiers in Psychology. 6: 739. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00739. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 4450171. PMID 26082741.
  15. ^ National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2018). State of homelessness. National Alliance to End Homelessness, retrieved from
  16. ^ Robinson and Sickels (2015). No right to rest criminalizing homelessness in Colorado. University of Colorado Denver and Denver Homeless Outloud, retrieved from
  17. ^ Dr. Kushel, M. (2018). Hepatitis A outbreaks in California – addressing the root cause. The New England Journal of Medicine, retrieved from
  18. ^ McFadden, Christopher (2020-11-22). "15 Examples of 'Anti-Homeless' Hostile Architecture That You Probably Never Noticed Before". Interesting Engineering. Archived from the original on 2020-11-22. Retrieved 2021-10-04.
  19. ^ "New research from Crisis uncovers dehumanising effects of defensive architecture". Crisis.
  20. ^ Gorfido, Ashley. "Homeless and Helpless: How the United States has Failed those With Severe and Persistent Mental Illness". Journal of Law and Health. 34: 108–129 – via Gale OneFile.
  21. ^ Delphin-Rittmon, M. (2022). Homelessness resources: Self-care for Providers. SAMHSA. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from
  22. ^ Davis, B. (2017, August 17). Get involved. National Coalition for the Homeless. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from