Los Angeles may be the City of Angels, but it's also the meanest city in the United States, according to a study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless. Why? L.A. has essentially made being homeless a crime.
And it's not just Los Angeles. In this survey of 224 U.S. cities, there is "an increase in the trend in cities around the country to criminalize homelessness," NLCHP Executive Director Maria Foscarinis told NPR. Foscarinis says that in the past three years there has been an increased number of laws that directly impact the homeless, including an 11 percent increase in anti-loitering laws and a seven percent rise in regulations that ban camping in certain public spaces.
The top 10 meanest U.S. cities:
1. Los Angeles, California
2. St. Petersburg, Florida
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Atlanta, Georgia
5. Gainesville, Florida
6. Kalamazoo, Michigan
7. San Francisco, California
8. Honolulu, Hawaii
9. Bradenton, Florida
10. Berkeley, California
These mean cities are enforcing their new laws and cracking down on people for "living in public places and for begging and eating and for seeking assistance in public places," Foscarinis told NPR. "Some cities are also punishing organizations and some people who are trying to help by offering food to poor people in public places."
Los Angeles officials strenuously object to the title of the meanest city of all. Casey Hernandez, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, told NPR that the report "fails to detail the city's housing-first strategy, which reflects national best practices for housing and services that help homeless individuals stay off the streets." She adds, "The assertion that Los Angeles criminalizes homelessness is simply false," noting that the city has dedicated $100 million annually since 2007 to provide housing for the homeless.
What can cities do to be less mean to the homeless? Maria Foscarinis offers this laundry list: provide housing, jobs and social services. In the end, she says, "that's more cost effective than deploying more police and spending more money on prisons and jails."
--From the Editors at Netscape