Activities and Outcomes

2016 Policy Briefs

Shut Out: How Barriers Often Prevent Meaningful Access to Emergency Shelter
Most cities fine and even jail homeless people for living outside on the assumption that their alternative is to access homeless shelters. This brief finds that assumption deeply flawed. This first-ever study of shelters discloses that shelters have insufficient beds to meet the demand, and rules that bar entry to many homeless people. Most shelters only serve single males or females-they automatically exclude families, LGBTQ youth, and couples. For many then, shelters are not an alternative. The brief offers several recommendations to encourage cities to stop criminalizing homelessness and to instead pursue non-punitive alternatives.

Living at the Intersection: Laws & Vehicle Residency
When faced with the possibility of living entirely without shelter, people experiencing homelessness are turning in greater numbers to the last refuge they have available: their vehicles. This brief examines vehicle residency throughout Washington State, including the unique struggles faced by vehicle residents and the increasingly punitive response by local municipalities. The findings reveal that cities both embrace direct criminalization of vehicle residency as well as turn a blind eye to the disproportionate impact of traffic penalties — including both fines and vehicle impoundment —on a population that has no reasonable alternatives.

Blurred Lines: Homelessness & the Increasing Privatization of Public Space
Downtown areas are a vital port for social services, human contact, the exercise of free speech, employment, food, and other necessary resources; however, visibly poor people are increasingly shut out as laws and policies increasingly restricts access to these core spaces. Business improvement districts (BIDs) have significant influence on the creation and enforcement of laws that regulate downtown public space. BIDs wield significant political and economic power; they can also effectively deputize citizens to act as a form of private security with broad authority and discretion to enforce these spatial regulations. This brief examines the increasing privatization of public space, the role of BIDs in this process, and the impact on visibly poor people.

No Rest for the Weary: Why Cities Should Embrace Homeless Encampments
Partly due to their visible nature, homeless encampments are often at the core of the debate about how local governments should deal with homelessness. This brief describes why encampments exist and the many benefits that encampments can provide to their residents. In addition, the brief examines the disruptions of encampments by local governments, most commonly known as "sweeps." The findings indicate that disruptions of encampments are ineffective, traumatizing to residents, and potentially unconstitutional. The brief concludes with recommendations to policymakers on how they can embrace encampments without failing to pursue more permanent solutions to homelessness.

No Pets Allowed: Discrimination, Homelessness, and Pet Ownership
This brief is the first to address the particular challenges faced by pet owners experiencing homelessness, particularly as they related to treatment by society at large, law enforcement practices, and access to housing and services. Researchers estimate that up to 25 percent of people experiencing homelessness own pets, yet these pet owners face constant attention, harassment, and scrutiny by both passersby and law enforcement officers. The brief observes how laws and policies regulating these behaviors not only stem from bias and discrimination against visible poverty, but also encourage poor policy outcomes and inhumane practices.

A Broken Dream: Homelessness & Immigrants
The United States' foreign-born population is estimated to be approximately 42.1 million and growing. This brief examines barriers that render this significant population particularly vulnerable to poverty and homelessness. This brief confronts a dearth of statistical and empirical data and offers the first attempt to weave a clearer picture of these barriers, both nationally and statewide. The brief also offers some recommendations to better support immigrant and refugee communities and to better insulate them from homelessness.

2015 Policy Briefs

Washington Ordinances & Enforcement
Research and analysis of the scope of criminalization ordinances throughout the state of Washington, including:

  • Research and assembly of a chart reflecting all criminalization ordinances throughout the state of Washington. The chart breaks the ordinances down by city and by type of prohibited conduct.
  • Research and assembly of results from a series of public records requests (already served on six cities, including Seattle).
  • Analysis of the foregoing Washington data, including trends.
  • Cross-jurisdictional analyses comparing the Washington data with similar California data being assembled by Berkeley students.

History of Criminalization
Analysis of the history legal efforts to remove marginalized or "undesirable" communities from sight, including:

  • Examination of Jim Crow laws, Ugly laws, Warning Out laws, Sundown laws.
  • Analysis of conditions that generate or support development and overturn of such laws.
  • Articulation of analogies and distinctions to current laws criminalizing homelessness.

The Overlay of Homelessness & Other Marginalized Groups
Analysis of points of intersectionality of homelessness and other marginalized groups, such as racial minorities, prisoners, and immigrants. Examines both national context and statewide context.

Cost Analyses of Incarceration vs. Alternatives to Incarceration
Overview of national studies and analyses that suggest that criminalization of homelessness is far less cost effective than non-punitive alternatives, such as providing housing. Conduct of new data collection, research, and analysis specific to Washington.

Other activities

Anti-criminalization campaign: On September 26, 2014, Professor Rankin hosted and co-facilitated (with street activist Paul Boden) the first statewide meeting to end the criminalization of homelessness. As an outgrowth of this meeting, Professor Rankin and her partners coordinated a diverse, broad coalition of individuals and organizations, including people who are currently experiencing homelessness, to serve as a steering committee for a statewide anti-criminalization campaign. The inaugural meeting of the steering committee occurred at the SU School of Law on October 31, 2014; new members are welcome. The committee voted unanimously to adopt as its name the Washington Homeless Anti-Criminalization Campaign (WHACC) and adopted a mission statement. WHACC continues to meet to set and pursue key priorities. HRAP will continue to play a vital role in WHACC's work.

First statewide, street-level survey: HRAP, WHACC, and other partners are leading an effort to administer the first statewide surveys of homeless people concerning the impact of criminalization ordinances on their daily lives. As part of their class requirements, Professor Rankin's students will participate in at least one session of surveying homeless people in Washington. Over 150 surveys have already been conducted. Using a similar methodology and survey instrument as those conducted in other states, HRAP will incorporate the results of the surveys into policy advocacy work aimed at invalidating or preventing the enactment of these ordinances.

First nationwide repository of resources: HRAP is collaborating with the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the Berkeley Policy Advocacy Clinic to create and maintain the first nationwide repository of resources to help advocates seeking to combat criminalization of homelessness and poverty in their own jurisdictions. The database will be populated with resources such as (1) data and analyses; (2) replicable methodologies; (3) policy briefs; and (4) key cases and associates briefs. The plan is also for registered users to be able to communicate with each other and to contribute to the site as well.

Mobilization of academic partnerships: HRAP seeks to increase coordination across academic institutions in service of focused policy advocacy around homeless rights issues. For example, HRAP facilitated the first-of-its kind coordinated clinic-practicum between the Berkeley Policy Advocacy Clinic, the Seattle University School of Law's Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, and the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP). All participants observed many benefits from such a collaborative structure to research, collect and analyze data, and engage in coordinated, cross-jurisdictional policy advocacy work. HRAP continues to advance such specific coordinated partnerships between various academic institutions and community organizations to support statewide and national policy advocacy campaigns. HRAP's work may also provide some replicable models for other academic institutions.