George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery. We at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty say these names to remember these lives that were recently so brutally cut short—adding to the killings of so many others before them.
As we said last week, as an organization committed to using the power of the law to end homelessness in America, the Law Center has a special responsibility to also call out and fight the structural racism that led to their recent brutal killings.
This means not only standing in solidarity, but also fighting for policies to make real change.
Right now, directly affected communities as well as advocates are calling for transformational change in policing that redirects funds away from police budgets and towards community needs such as housing and education.
The Justice in Policing Accountability Act, introduced on Monday, calls for much needed reforms, including—for the first time—a federal requirement to report on the housing status of civilians against whom force is used by law enforcement, in addition to race, gender, and other characteristics. This data will help us better bring to light the disparate impact policing has on people of color who are experiencing homelessness. While we believe much more is needed, we support this as a significant step forward.
We have long supported the call to redirect resources away from law enforcement and to community needs, including in the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign, now supported by more than 1600 organizations and individuals. In particular, law enforcement should not be charged with addressing homelessness—resources now being spent on criminalizing homelessness should instead be spent on housing and community support, as noted by the Washington Post editorial board in its call to Defund the Police, citing our report.
Redirecting police resources away from criminalization and to housing is essential not only to ending homelessness but also to fighting racism:
- Laws criminalizing homelessness, rooted in Jim Crow, contribute to the gross over-representation of people of color in the criminal justice system, and disparately affect Black Americans and other people of color.
- Deliberate, discriminatory laws and policies have played a direct role in causing homelessness, and in causing people of color to be homeless in numbers far disproportionate to their numbers in the general population.
- Racist policies drive unequal access to resources—including money, education, healthcare, and housing—devaluing the lives of people of color.
We look forward to working with our allies on the ground, old and new, as well as to allies in Congress, to make common cause as we push these demands and initiatives forward.
Maria Foscarinis on behalf of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty