Criminality of Being Homeless

Flickr//Homeless Hub

Flickr//Homeless Hub

All people should have civil rights in this country. We open our borders to immigrants, but people often show they care nothing about the homeless. There is even an effort to make being homeless tantamount to being a criminal.

I have been spat at by passersby. What are my rights? I have been banned from going into a movie theater, presumably because I had bags with me. What are my rights?

Some states, like Connecticut, have passed laws giving homeless people a special “Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights.” A person should have the right to sit on a pack bench, go into a public facility, panhandle, etc., without fear of being arrested. Other states have enacted laws similar to Connecticut’s and more states need to follow.

Entering a store or a business should not confer on the security guards the right to follow any person or to inquire if they need help. Some stores do have specific policies about the length of time a person can remain on their premises. A reasonable amount of time, like 15 minutes, might be enough time for the type of goods they sell, such as food.

Panhandling should be legal as long as people don’t threaten others. The police once charged me for panhandling because they said I stepped in front of people or should have been on oneside of the sidewalk or the other. The people could walk around me. But the police said it didn’t matter, and I had to pay a fine.

We are human beings and we all have feelings. Anyone can join the ranks of the homeless through bad circumstances that befall them. We should think of others and in doing so, we may also be thinking of ourselves.

Gwynette Smith is a writer and a vendor for Street Sense.

Region |Washington DC

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