I recently have become acquainted with law enforcement’s tactics when working with homeless young adults in the transitional housing program that I case manage. I do not appreciate the way homeless youth are treated and continually victimized by the police department. When young adults enter my transitional housing program, they often have negative histories on their criminal record. Some are more serious, including theft and misdemeanors; but others include ‘illegal camping,’ criminal trespassing in state parks and loitering, which are sometimes referred to as ‘quality of life’ citations.
We want these young adults to be productive members of society, and yet we tack petty criminal charges on their records and state, “Well, you need to get a job.” How do we expect them to get a job with petty criminal charges on their record? Even minor criminal charges deter employers from hiring them. So I ask, why doesn’t law enforcement stop bullying homeless young adults with charges of ‘illegal camping’ and start referring them to social service agencies that can help them becomes the “productive” members of society we want them to be? Is it easier to tack a petty charge on someone’s record than to make a difference in the life of someone who needs societal inclusion, compassion and empathy?