Homeless and Criminalization

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The homeless face the same dilemma of criminalization around the world. In particular, the U.S., Brazil, and Hungary treat their poor people in an inhumane manner that violates multiple human rights.


Every day, countless homeless individuals seek residence on the streets with whatever resources they can muster while being persecuted by every aspect of society. Forced off the streets, laws evict them from park benches and sidewalks. In the U.S., barely within 24 hours of not returning to a shelter, their place there can be taken from them, leaving them to fend off dangerous conditions outside, not knowing from where they will receive their next meal or the next time they will be able to wear clean clothing. Properly accounting for the homeless has proved to be a daunting task because people constantly move in and out of a state of homelessness and having a temporary or permanent place of residence. While it would be unsustainable to attempt to fix the problem by just handing resources to the homeless, many countries in which the burden of homelessness can be alleviated ”such as in industrialized nations that have resources available could adjust their systems to allow more resources to be allocated to the homeless such as food, clean water, shelter, money. People in non-socialist countries would likely fear that such an allocation of resources would be akin to that of communism, so they would likely not support that solution because of their country ideals.


According to a new Hungarian amendment, the amendment to Article XXII of the Hungarian constitution, it is now illegal for people to be homeless. The amendment states, In order to protect public order, public safety, public health, and cultural artifacts, an Act or a local government decree may, with respect to a specific part of public space, provide that using a public space as a habitual dwelling shall be illegal. Instead of protecting the order of society, by cracking down on all homeless persons Hungary has eliminated all legal protections for the homeless. Without someone to take regular care of them, they may have no other place to go. The European Union has responded by threatening the removal of Hungary's voice from the EU, however, they await a response from Hungary (Tomlinson n.p.).

United States of America

The United States of America remains among the worst offenders of persecuting individuals without homes on every scale. Politically, America's laws try to incriminate them; economically, they are disadvantaged; socially, they are voiceless. According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Annual Homeless Assessment Report, there are approximately 554,000 homeless in the United States, almost 50,000 of those people are unaccompanied youth people under 25 years old. The U.S. justice system fails to protect their homeless by enforcing vague and cruel laws. Under these laws supported by the Constitution, cities are allowed to keep individuals off the streets, leaving them stuck in a cycle of being fined, not being able to pay the fine, going on trial for their refusal to pay the fine, serving time for infringing upon the law, then losing their place at a shelter for the night(s) they missed while serving jail time and not being able to receive a job because of their record, thus continuing the cycle. One such law found in cities across America forbids people from feeding the homeless. Because of this law, around 12 to 15 people were arrested in El Cajon for distributing food and supplies (Winkley n.p.).

Significance of Research

The laws imposed by these countries blatantly violate the basic human rights of the low income and the destitute unable to establish a permanent residence. In doing so they demonstrate a power dynamic in which their governments suppress the voices of the poor to prevent them from speaking out against officials who may look bad. This is unconstitutional and a human rights violation because it takes away from their freedom of speech, as when they are arrested under arbitrary laws and imprisoned, they can no longer voice their opinions. In situations in which they are imprisoned, they lose their places at shelters, they lose the opportunity to obtain a job, they could lose whatever job they have if they have one, and their future possible career may suffer. This is because corporations and smaller businesses can and more likely than not will deny them job positions based on their record or living status, leaving them with the burden of finding a job somewhere else. This burden is also a weak form of power because their ability to choose the jobs they want are already so limited. Even if they are to obtain a job, their job will likely be insufficient as a living wage, which for Americans ranges from an average of $45,000 to $68,000 (Kolmar n.p.). In the same way, if they wanted to obtain higher education, it would be much more difficult if they have a criminal record, regardless of what laws they violated or what laws violated them. This is a violation of their basic human right to education. Homeless shelters reserve for the homeless the power to avoid being fined for living on the streets and allow them to more easily obtain a job, become more educated, obtain a more permanent residence, and (Kolmar n.p.).

Another important consideration is that the public discrimination they face can wreak havoc on their dignity and self-esteem. Society sees them through critical eyes and treats them as it does criminals. The law forces them into hiding as if they should be accountable for their homelessness, then tosses away their rights in court. Businesses treat them like animals. The public insults them while mocking their disposition, shaming them into submission. Their families if they have them and they are not also homeless see them as failures or burdens that they can no longer afford to bear. Because of the stress, so many lose hope for themselves. As a result of the emotional torment and physical distress, those in destitute situations worldwide have resorted to suicide, self-harm, drugs, alcohol, prostitution.Lastly, all 3 countries are in violation of Articles 1, 3, 5, 9, 10, 12, 17, 23, 24 & 25 of human rights law established by the E.U.


All societies have disappointed the homeless in failing to provide them with what they need to succeed in life. Some have made noble attempts such as Finland, who is seeing its rates of homelessness decreasing. (Busch-Geertsema, ) The solution that it proposed and is employing is giving homes to the homeless. Others like the U.S. and Hungary only make it more difficult for the homeless to come out of their situations by imposing laws that effectively keep those in extreme poverty from advancing in society. It would be in every country's interest to at least consider the longer-term benefits of reducing then eliminating homelessness.

Works Cited

  1. Robertson, Marjorie J, and Milton Greenblatt. Homelessness: a National Perspective. New York: Plenum Press, 1992.
  2. Schutt, Russell K., et al. Responding to the Homeless: Policy and Practice. Plenum Press, 1992.
  3. Violations of the Human Rights of Persons Experiencing ...National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, www.nlchp.org/documents/sr-ep-2017.
  4. Hungarian Parliament. Hungarian Constitution. 2018, https://www.parlament.hu/irom41/00332/00332-0011.pdf
  5. Tomlinson, Akira. Hungary Constitution Bans Homeless from Living in Public Spaces. Jurist, 16 Oct. 2018, www.jurist.org/news/2018/10/hungary-constitution-bans-homeless-from-living-in-public-spaces/.
  6. Winkley, Lyndsay. About a Dozen People Arrested for Feeding the Homeless in El Cajon Park.
  7. Sandiegouniontribune.com, 16 Jan. 2018, www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/sd-me-20180114-story.html.
  8. Henry, M., Watt, R., Rosenthal, L. and Shivji, A. (2018). The 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress. [online] Hudexchange.info. Available at: https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2017-AHAR-Part-1.pdf.
  9. Kolmar, Chris. This Is How Much A Living Wage Is In Each State. Zippia, research.zippia.com/living-wage.html.
  10. Bonner, A., & Luscombe, C. (2009). Suicide and homelessness. Journal of Public Mental Health, 8(3), 7-19. doi:https://dx.doi.org.jproxy.lib.ecu.edu/10.1108/17465729200900016
  11. Busch-Geertsema, Volker. (2010) The Finnish National Programme to reduce long-term homelessness.
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Homeless And Criminalization. (2019, Mar 26). Retrieved April 13, 2024 , from

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