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Anti-homeless architecture
Anti-homeless architecture

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,[1] actions intended to divert homeless people from particular areas, penalizing loitering or anti-social behavior,[2] or unequally enforcing laws on homeless people and not on those who are not homeless.[3] American Civilities Liberties Union (ACLU) report that 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 the homeless people and holds back essential services that could save their lives.[4]

Another example of public policy failure could be seen in employment opportunities. Sarah Golabek-Goldman writes about BAN THE ADDRESS campaign by making a case that banning the address on a policy level will help homeless people who experience discrimination in seeking employment get a job to sustain themselves.[5] Passing this law will help homeless get back on their feet because when they provide their address now the employers see their address as homeless shelter, and never call them back. This law will help in protecting the homeless against employment discrimination.

There are at least 5 states which consider crimes against homeless people with the reason being due to their homelessness to be a hate crime, which include Florida, Maine, Washington and Rhode Island. It is also a hate crime stature in Washington, DC.

Anti-camping legislation and policy

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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".[6]

Coercive Psycho-pharmaceutical Treatment

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For example, see Homelessness in California § Coerced Psycho-pharmoceutical 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.[7] There have been many violent crimes committed against homeless people due to their being homeless.[8] A study in 2007 found that this number is increasing.[9] 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,[11] 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[12] 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. 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,[13] in 2017 alone 649 people in California were infected with hepatitis A; this outbreak began in the homeless population.

Anti-homeless architecture

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.[14] 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.[15]

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 biggest contributing factors of homelessness.[16]

Resources to Help

Social inclusion is a big part of what many homeless people struggle with. Some are scared to reach out because they fear the descrimination 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 helping them 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 who were granted the shelter were more likely to want to work. [17] There are many actions to take when it comes to helping homeless people. Some simple ones being donating clothing, household items, books and other materials. Other measures that can be taken involve fund raising programs, supporting a homeless shelter or even helping to raise awareness. [18]

See also


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ "Britain: Where have all the homeless gone?". The Economist. Vol. 372, no. 8388. pp. 21–49.
  3. ^ Out of Sight - Out of Mind?. National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. 1999. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-7881-8276-1.
  4. ^ "The ACLU Says There's A War Against Unhoused People In Los Angeles". LAist. 2021-10-26. Retrieved 2021-12-05.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Fantz, Ashley (February 20, 2007). "Teen 'sport killings' of homeless on the rise". CNN.
  9. ^ Lewan, Todd (April 8, 2007). "Unprovoked Beatings of Homeless Soaring". USA Today. Associated Press.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2018). State of homelessness. National Alliance to End Homelessness, retrieved from
  12. ^ Robinson and Sickels (2015). No right to rest criminalizing homelessness in Colorado. University of Colorado Denver and Denver Homeless Outloud, retrieved from
  13. ^ Dr. Kushel, M. (2018). Hepatitis A outbreaks in California – addressing the root cause. The New England Journal of Medicine, retrieved from
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "New research from Crisis uncovers dehumanising effects of defensive architecture". Crisis.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Delphin-Rittmon, M. (2022). Homelessness resources: Self-care for Providers. SAMHSA. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from
  18. ^ Davis, B. (2017, August 17). Get involved. National Coalition for the Homeless. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from