Advocates say homelessness shouldn't be a crime

Nov 13, 2014

Eric Hufnagel is executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness

A group of pastors and volunteers for a local non-profit in Ft. Lauderdale are facing jail time and hundreds of dollars in fine after a run-in with police last week. Their crime? Passing out food to the homeless in a city park. Advocates for the homeless says these kinds of ordinances are part of a larger trend of cities criminalizing the activities of homeless people. Here in Michigan, a number of cities have ordinances restricting vagrancy and panhandling.

Kalamazoo broadened its already existing ban earlier this month. An ordinance currently before the Flint Township Board would ticket people for giving or receiving money from a vehicle. And a proposed ban on begging in Grand Rapids failed to pass the city council this summer after a split vote.

Current State talks with the executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, Eric Hufnagel, and a senior attorney at the National  Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Tristia Bauman, about how some states and cities are dealing with the homeless and those who try to help them.