Citywide Sweeps of the Homeless

A growing number of U.S. cities regularly conduct sweeps of the homeless, ostensibly to protect public health and to create more secure and orderly environments. During these sweeps, law enforcement officials and sanitation workers may descend—sometimes without warning—on areas where homeless people are congregating, thereby either forcing the homeless to move elsewhere or arresting them for outstanding warrants or for minor offenses, such as vagrancy and loitering. In the process, officials routinely destroy the personal property (including food, medicine, clothing, tents, and personal documents) of those they displace. Although these sweeps certainly reduce the number of people seen living outdoors on city streets or in public parks, there is little evidence indicating that they have any long-term benefits in decreasing homelessness, poverty, or crime. Although ...

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