Punishing the Poorest


On June 18, the Coalition on Homelessness released one of our most ambitious research projects, yet: Punishing the Poorest—an investigation of the impacts of criminalization on homeless people in San Francisco.

Punishing the Poorest is the result of participant-led research, a collaboration between San Francisco homeless people and academics from UC Berkeley. Through this unusual collaboration, we have shown:

  • that homeless people find themselves very frequently to be the focus of police attention;
  • that homeless people are forced to move by police often, despite lacking other places to be;
  • that anti-homeless laws are entirely ineffective in moving homeless people out of public spaces, or in preventing the prohibited activities of sitting, standing, or sleeping;
  • that police interactions do not lead to homeless people’s getting access to services;
  • that incarceration for status crimes (“quality of life” offenses such as sitting, resting, or sleeping) perpetuate homelessness; and
  • that the criminalization of homelessness disproportionately affects people of color, those with mental illnesses, and gender non-conforming people.

Our entire report is available on-line: Punishing the Poorest (1.9 Mb PDF)