In 2014, The National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty's study "No Safe Place" collected and compared anti-homeless laws across the country not long before Fort Lauderdale's sharing ban was introduced. Around the same time the National Coalition to End Homelessness also published "Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People In Need."
While it is fair to say that most of the general public did not take notice, it was these methodological studies that made awareness of homeless hate laws through other means, such as attention grabbing headlines, petitions, and memes, possible.
Someone, after all, had to count all these cities that banned sharing food. And its very rare that anyone is collecting data on homelessness in a way that leads to a critical understanding of how governmental agencies are perpetuating poverty.
Last week, law students at the University of Denver, affiliated with the Homeless Advocacy Policy Project, published: "Too High A Price: What Criminalizing The Homeless Costs Colorado." There's a lot of great information in it, and a lot of will sound very familiar.
- Colorado sounds a lot like Florida when it comes to passing laws across numerous local governments. The study found over 350 anti-homeless laws in cities across the state, to an average of 6 per city. In spite of this Denver is still the only city in the state with restrictions on sharing food with the homeless. It seems like almost every city in America has some kind of interest in passing anti-homeless laws.
- Colorado is also not very "liberal" when it comes to enforcement. Despite the fact that cold weather is a deadly danger to homeless people in Colorado, police forces across the state enforce anti-homeless rules that can have deadly consequences for the person cited.
- Colorado, like most other local and state governments, has accepted enormous expenses towards enforcing anti-homeless laws. The study estimated that 6 Colorado cities spent at least $5 million on enforcing these laws over a 5 year period. A comparable study of Florida cities, which has 5x the population of Colorado, would likely make that cost seem small by comparison.
|Occupy Denver camp eviction, 2011|
"...Denver arrested nearly 300 homeless individuals in 2014 for panhandling. Between 2013 and 2014, Denver issued over 2,000
trespass citations to homeless individuals. This represents more than half of all trespass citations in the city even though homeless residents are only 0.05% of the population."
It makes one wonder what Floridians could really learn about the true cost of homelessness across the state. Here's a very simple (and un-academic) example of what that might look like; if we took the number from this 2014 study of homelessness in Central Florida of $31,000 per homeless person per year, and multiplied it by 2014 Point in Time statewide count from the same year, 41,335, we get 1.2 billion dollars.
Locally, Fort Lauderdale runs a massive municipal court system that racks up citations against indigent people at an astonishing rate. By now the City has also racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees for defending itself against suits filed against the City for its 2014 food sharing ban law.