Jails, Justice and Homelessness…

Today’s post is part of the annual A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. For more information on the challenge and its creator visit:


a-z 2015 j

My theme this year is An Intimate Look at the Homeless and Mental Health Epidemic in America which just happens to be the subtitle of my next book, The Stranger in My Recliner. The book is the true story of Sophie.  She was the eighty-year-old homeless woman that my husband brought home one night. She lived with us for nearly three –years. The book will be out this fall.

Jails, Justice and Homelessness

Did you know that if you become homeless you are pretty much considered a criminal by law enforcement and most communities? It is illegal pretty much everywhere to sleep outside, to loiter to beg and now it is becoming illegal to feed the homeless people on public property.

Homeless on bench


These laws that cause the homeless to be jailed and processed through the justice system do nothing to alleviate the problem of homelessness. In fact the fines and court cost pile up causing the homeless to be repeatedly jailed because they cannot pay the fines which results in higher fines, more court costs and this only causes the homeless person to be in an unending cycle of poverty. It also sucks up government, political and private resources that could be used elsewhere.

One community in Florida spent more than five-million-dollars over a five-year period jailing, prosecuting and re-jailing the same thirty-six people over and over. That doesn’t count the other millions spent on ambulances, emergency rooms and mental health facilities. It makes no sense morally and less sense fiscally. The town could have rented thirty-six apartments, provided thirty-six social workers, mental health services, addiction services, financial counseling and most likely well before five-years would have money left over and could have had thirty-six tax- paying, upstanding members of their community.

Homeless arrested

It is amazing what a hand up instead of a hand down can do for those whose self-esteem and confidence have been beaten out of them mentally and sometimes physically. Soup kitchens and shelters do not make the homeless feel good about themselves. Most of them are dangerous places. Sure they might be a band-aid but the only people that feel good about them are the people that think these places actually make a difference. They really don’t.

Our police communities are overwhelmed. Their budgets and manpower have been cut severely. They deal with violent criminals, domestic violence situations, child abusers, are the first on scene to deadly accidents seeing horrific sights, witness young people killing each other and they get calls about homeless people. One homeless person sleeping in a park can generate hundreds of calls to the police from mothers walking the children in the park, employees eating lunch the park, vendors trying to do business, dog walkers and joggers. Not all homeless people are mentally ill and not all mentally ill people are dangerous but let’s face facts, some are. All of those people that call the police have a right and deserve to use the public park the way it was intended to be used without fear.

The homeless also have rights. The police routinely do what they call sweeps. They go through public properties and confiscate or destroy the possessions of homeless people and their shelters with the hope the homeless will move on. If they don’t they are arrested. The UN has called the United States out on this practice. It does violate the homeless person’s fourth-amendment right to illegal search and seizure.

Three states have introduced bills to stop this practice. California, Oregon and Colorado are trying to ensure people can eat, pray and occupy a motor vehicle as long as they are not obstructing passage or are on private property without the owners’ permission.

Most people think the answer is complicated. It’s not. Homeless people need homes. That is pretty simple.

Homeless population numbers

What can you do to help?

Only donate to programs that work towards permanent housing for the homeless.

Before donating to a shelter ask what their policies are. Do young woman have to prove they are at risk on the street before they can stay? Do they accept pets? Do they have programs that lead to permanent housing? What is their crime rate? Are they open 24/7 or do the homeless have to leave first thing in the morning? If you are not comfortable with the answers do not give them your money. Find a program that actually offers a hand up.

Thank you for reading,


I’m one of Lisa’s Live Wires! Lisa is a challenge co-host Lisa Buie-Collard.

A-Z 2015 Minion Badge

I am excited to be working with this bunch of fabulous bloggers …

Rhonda Albom –   Bob R. Milne –   Tamera Narayan –  Stephanie Faris –   Heather McCubbin –   Randi Lee

*homeless man on bench: *Photograph: Tony Eves / Alamy/Alamy






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