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Can you imagine living in fear of falling asleep? For thousands of homeless people across the country living in areas with "anti-homeless" laws, getting shut-eye could also mean getting handcuffed.




Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

But fortunately, the federal government just sent a strong, game-changing message to American cities on how they should be treating homeless folks when it comes to getting a night's rest. And, according to one expert on the matter, the message is to homeless advocates what the Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality was to those fighting for gay rights.

Last week, the Department of Justice basically said being homeless should not be treated as a crime.

You might think that'd be a no-brainer, but there's actually been a growing number of American cities making it increasingly difficult to be homeless without breaking the law.

A study from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty analyzed 187 U.S. cities between 2011 and 2014 and found criminalizing homelessness is pretty popular nowadays. Bans on sitting or lying down in certain public areas, for instance, have spiked 43%. Laws that prohibit people from sleeping in vehicles have increased by a whopping 119%.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The problem is, laws like these don't curb homelessness. They just make it more challenging for homeless people to better their circumstances.

When a person gets arrested for, say, sleeping on a public bench, that arrest makes securing a job or a place to live down the line that much harder because employers and landlords are hesitant to trust someone with a history of run-ins with the law.

“Most homeless people aren't criminals," Eric Tars, a senior attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, explained to Al Jazeera. “It's only the laws that criminalize their acts of survival that make them into that."

"So? Who cares?If someone breaks the law, it doesn't affect me!" someone (without a heart) might say.

Well, that might be a fair argument — albeit a morally bankrupt one — if it were true. But it's not. Research shows that taxpayers actually foot a larger bill when people are living without any form of shelter than if communities simply built and provided homes for those in need.

That's why it's a huge deal that the DOJ just declared Boise's ban on sleeping in public spaces as cruel and unusual punishment.

On Aug. 13, 2015, the DOJ issued a statement of interest regarding Janet F. Bell v. City of Boise. And its ramifications may be felt far outside the Gem State.

Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images.

In its statement, the DOJ argues an ordinance in Boise that bans sleeping or camping in public places is unconstitutional because it violates the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The DOJ claims a city can't fail to provide adequate shelter space for those in need while also outlawing sleeping in public:

"Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity — i.e., it must occur at some time in some place. If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless."

And that, the department argued, is unacceptable.

While the statement itself doesn't change policy, still "it's huge," Tars told The Washington Post. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed the lawsuit alongside Idaho Legal Aid Services on behalf of homeless individuals convicted of violating the local ordinance.

Coming from the federal level, the statement carries significant symbolic meaning and could influence how cities regulate homelessness moving forward.

It won't change the realities of being homeless in America overnight. But it's a meaningful step for anyone who believes homeless people should be treated like actual human beings rather than criminals.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


Being married is like being half of a two-headed monster. It's impossible to avoid regular disagreements when you're bound to another person for the rest of your life. Even the perfect marriage (if there was such a thing) would have its daily frustrations. Funnily enough, most fights aren't caused by big decisions but the simple, day-to-day questions, such as "What do you want for dinner?"; "Are we free Friday night?"; and "What movie do you want to see?"

Here are some hilarious tweets that just about every married couple will understand.

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Democracy

A man told me gun laws would create more 'soft targets.' He summed up the whole problem.

As far as I know, there are only two places in the world where people living their lives are referred to as 'soft targets.'

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Only in America are kids in classrooms referred to as "soft targets."

On the Fourth of July, a gunman opened fire at a parade in quaint Highland Park, Illinois, killing at least six people, injuring dozens and traumatizing (once again) an entire nation.

My family member who was at the parade was able to flee to safety, but the trauma of what she experienced will linger. For the toddler with the blood-soaked sock, carried to safety by a stranger after being pulled from under his father's bullet-torn body, life will never be the same.

There's a phrase I keep seeing in debates over gun violence, one that I can't seem to shake from my mind. After the Uvalde school shooting, I shared my thoughts on why arming teachers is a bad idea, and a gentleman responded with this brief comment:

"Way to create more soft targets."

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Paul Rudd in 2016.

Passing around your yearbook to have it signed by friends, teachers and classmates is a fun rite of passage for kids in junior high and high school. But, according to KDVR, for Brody Ridder, a bullied sixth grader at The Academy of Charter Schools in Westminster, Colorado, it was just another day of putting up with rejection.

Poor Brody was only able to get four signatures in his yearbook, two from what appeared to be teachers and one from himself that said, “Hope you make some more friends."

Brody’s mom, Cassandra Ridder has been devastated by the bullying her son has faced over the past two years. "There [are] kids that have pushed him and called him names," she told The Washington Post. It has to be terrible to have your child be bullied and there is nothing you can do.

She posted about the incident on Facebook.

“My poor son. Doesn’t seem like it’s getting any better. 2 teachers and a total of 2 students wrote in his yearbook,” she posted on Facebook. “Despite Brody asking all kinds of kids to sign it. So Brody took it upon himself to write to himself. My heart is shattered. Teach your kids kindness.”

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