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Pottinger v. City of Miami

Homeless Rights

Homelessness in America significantly escalated through the 1980s with estimates of possibly as many as three million people living on the streets or in temporary facilities by the late 1990s. As the numbers increased, the occurrence of homeless families with children became more prevalent. Also, with increased visibility came reactions from society to suppress the visibility and intrusion of homelessness on communities. Nationally, Congress lacked a clear response to the increasing problem. Consequently, states and local governments began taking action citing health problems and increasing crime in locations where street people congregate. New laws restricted panhandling on streets, loitering, camping in public spaces, and sleeping in the public. Advocates for homeless rights claimed the laws constituted homeless harassment. Police tearing down shacks and tents and destroying personal property constituted illegal search and seizure, anti-panhandling ordinances unconstitutionally restricted free speech, and loitering ordinances violated peoples' right to travel.

Advocates pressed for recognition of right to shelter and emergency assistance, child welfare, mental health care, voting rights, and right to education. The New York Coalition for the Homeless successfully gained state and city support for housing for the homeless mentally ill. However, communities generally only provided minimal assistance in response to court orders or to avoid expensive lawsuits.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentPottinger v. City of Miami - Significance, City's Treatment Of Homeless Violated Their Constitutional Rights, Negotiations Lead To Settlement Agreement