In November 2015, Abby Zimet, writing for Common Dreams, published “Sleeping Outside is Not Voluntary Conduct: The Homeless Fight Back.” Zimet’s article focused on the topic of the criminalization of homelessness. The criminalization of homelessness is significant, as it relates to police brutality, overpopulation in United States prisons, and the drastic divide between economic classes.
Along with nearly two hundred other cities across the nation, the city of Manteca, California, has passed laws that prevents poor people from sitting or lying on the sidewalk, having any possessions with them, sleeping in public, as well as the legalization of police breaking up encampments. Furthermore, individuals in the homeless population claim that these new-implemented laws violate their constitutional rights. Several other cities have also passed laws that prevent non-homeless people from helping (providing aid) to homeless people.
Manteca residents argue that the area’s homeless population strives to get rich off panhandling and most are “bad” people. At the time of the new law’s passage, Manteca’s police chief stated that their aim was to “‘correct the wrong’ of homeless people being in their pristine midst, and ‘if the correctional (means the homeless) leaving Manteca, then that’s their choice.’” On the other hand, members of the homeless population argue, “sleeping outside is not voluntary conduct…sometimes things happen and people fall off their feet (but) we [homeless citizens] shouldn’t be arrested and dragged off.” The divide between classes is evident through the different perspective arguments, along with the idea of police brutality. Overcrowding, overpopulation, and economic troubles relate to this story when police take advantage of the newly implemented laws that criminalize homeless citizens for simply existing within the city limits.
The independent news coverage “Sleeping Outside is Not Voluntary Conduct: The Homeless Fight Back” has been scant. Although there was some coverage on the topic in the year prior, there was just one applicable article written, following the release of this specific article. Bryce Covert released an article regarding the topic on ThinkProgress, titled, “This City Criminalized Homelessness, So the Homeless are Fighting Back.” There was virtually no corporate news coverage regarding the criminalization of homelessness in Manteca.
While the article’s topic highlights links between police brutality and overcrowded prisons within the United States, along with the divide between economic classes through discrimination of homeless citizens, it was still left out of corporate media and received minimal attention from independent media alike.
Source: Abby Zimet, “Sleeping Outside is Not Voluntary Conduct: The Homeless Fight Back,” Common Dreams, November 20, 2015, http://www.commondreams.org/further/2015/11/20/sleeping-outside-not-voluntary-conduct-homeless-fight-back.
Student Researchers: Jen Lyons and Jared Rodda (Diablo Valley College)
Faculty Evaluator: Nolan Higdon (California State University, East Bay)