Policing and the Punitive Politics of Local Homelessness Policy

Advocates and researchers agree that solutions to homelessness must address the root causes. Communities need to increase access to quality, affordable permanent housing, and they must provide the necessary social and medical services to support unhoused people remaining stably housed. Yet, local governments may not always follow these evidence-based housing policy programs, instead pursuing punitive policing or the criminalization of homelessness. Such policies do not end homelessness; instead, they may actually promote cycles of homelessness. This policy brief investigates the involvement of the police in responses to homelessness in cities across the country. We amass a wide array of data, including a novel survey of mayors and details of Homeless Outreach Teams from the nation’s 100 largest cities. We find that the police are highly influential in city homelessness policymaking and are frequently involved in implementing homelessness policy.

Year: 2023
Resource Type:
Alternatives to Criminalisation
Human Rights
Use of Public Spaces
North America
United States
People Groups:
People experiencing Homelessness or live in informal settlements
People experiencing Poverty
Policy Reform