The author then cites numerous examples of unjust laws targeted specifically at homeless people in order to illustrate his point that the intent [of such laws] isclear: to control behavior and space such that homeless people simply cannot dowhat they must do in order to survive without breaking laws (p. 307). Mitchellcites numerous laws across varied U.S. municipalities that condemn public behaviorcommon to most homeless people, like panhandling, begging, sleeping in public,lying on the sidewalk, defecating in public, and loitering. While most cities justifysuch laws by offering a crime prevention standpoint, Mitchell comments that,ironically, anti-homeless legislation is not about crime prevention; more likely it isabout
(p. 307).This is the case, according to Mitchell, because anti-homeless legislation takes what most homeless people must do
and turnsit into a crime, severely punishable in many situations. Mitchell even makes theargument that most of these actions are fundamental instincts of survival commonto all people, even those who do not live on the streets. The main aspect that seemsto make such actions worthy of criminalization is
they are done. Becausehomeless people simply have no other place where they can carry out suchactivities, they are forced to carry them out in public, which is deemed not survival,but criminal action. Mitchell then points out the logic that drives the criminalizationof homelessness: though these people have nowhere left to go, their homelessness isseen as voluntary. The logic of the oppressor claims that such people fail to takeadvantage of all the opportunities that society offers, and, therefore, punishment iscompletely necessary (p. 319).Mitchell also points out another influential point of motivation for laws that discriminate against the homeless: maintenance of the public image. According toMitchell, the majority of urban redevelopment legislation that alienates thehomeless is primarily motivated by the concern that the pretty picture remainparamount (p. 3
3). In response to a growing number of homeless in the nationsurban centers, many city governments have privatized public space in order toforsake the homeless in favor of the privileged of society.Many of these initiativesplace more emphasis on public aesthetics than on the worth of the individual. Thus,as Mitchell concludes, by seeking to eliminate the ugly public spaces of acommunity, civic authority seeks to eliminate the very people who are forced to livein these spaces; furthermore, this action is completely motivated by a sense of purefear and misunderstanding.
Ellickson, Robert C. "Controlling chronic misconduct in city spaces: Of panhandlers, skid rows, and public-space zoning ."
e Yale Law Journal
105,no. 5 (1996): 1165-1194.
Ellicksons thesis is that public spaces create opportunities for misuse andnuisance by the destitute, and therefore must be maintained strictly. Ellicksondescribes public spaces as prime breeding grounds for thechronic publicnuisances of the homeless, which undermines the productivity of the space and its