In the United States (“U.S.”), homelessness is deeply intertwined with racism. As such, the criminalization of homelessness is fundamentally a racial issue. Despite only constituting approximately 12% of the general population in the U.S., Black people account for 37% of unhoused persons, due to long-standing laws and policies adversely affecting Black communities. Rather than addressing the underlying need for housing, in part because of the disparately Black face of homelessness, policymakers in the U.S. increasingly take a law-enforcement approach, criminalizing the life-sustaining activities of unhoused persons such as sleeping, eating, or sitting. Black unhoused persons are approximately 10 times more likely to receive citations under these laws than white persons. In some communities, more than half the persons arrested,6 and more than one-third of use of force incidents are against those who are unhoused, despite these persons making up a tiny fraction of the population. Each one of these unnecessary tickets or arrests is an opportunity for police violence, resulting in numerous instances of police torture and murder of unhoused Black, Indigenous, and other persons of color.
Racial Injustice in Homelessness and Housing in the United States
National Homelessness Law Center