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Law Center slams L.A. as America's 'meanest city' toward homeless

July 14, 2009 |  2:58 pm

Los Angeles tops the list of America's "10 Meanest Cities" in its treatment of the homeless as criminals, two legal advocacy agencies for the poor say in a report proposing alternatives for handling the down-and-out.

The survey of 273 cities by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless based its rankings on the number of laws targeting the homeless by making it illegal to sleep, eat or sit in public spaces.

"Homelessness in America is a human-rights crisis right here at home," said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the law center. "As foreclosures continue and the recession deepens, the crisis is affecting more and more Americans. But while some cities offer a helping hand, too often, as documented in our report, cities adopt unjust laws and practices that punish people simply for being poor and homeless."

Tulin Ozdeger, the law center's civil rights program director, argued that it costs more to jail a homeless person in violation of the "inhumane" laws than to provide permanent housing.

Other cities rounding out the list in the report, titled Homes, Not Handcuffs, are 2) St. Petersburg, Fla.; 3) Orlando, Fla.; 4) Atlanta;5) Gainesville, Fla.; 6) Kalamazoo, Mich.; 7) San Francisco; 8) Honolulu;9) Bradenton, Fla.; 10) Berkeley, Calif.

To view the full homeless report, visit: http://www.nlchp.org/

--Carol J. Williams