Stop the Criminalization of Homelessness


Target: Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith

Goal: Stop a policy that would criminalize homelessness

In 1998, Miami, Florida adopted a policy which, according to news website RT, “instructed law enforcement to take a soft stance” on minor infractions committed by the homeless. Police had been instructed not to arrest homeless citizens for “littering, cooking a meal in public using a fire, or public defecation” without first offering them a bed in a homeless shelter.

Recently, Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff proposed modifications to this city code. These proposed modifications would give police the authority to “arrest those homeless people who refuse shelter on three occasions within a 180-day period.” RT further reports that police would also be authorized to confiscate their belongings.

Human rights organizations have criticized these proposed modifications to the city code as “criminalization of homelessness.” Miami homeless shelters are already at “capacity,” according to one news source; don’t let Miami criminalize the actions of these homeless citizens just trying to get by. Tell the Florida Senate not to let Miami revise its penal codes against its homeless population.


Dear Senator Chris Smith,

Recently, Miami has proposed revisions to its city code authorizing police to arrest homeless individuals who “refuse shelter on three occasions within a 180-day period.” Police will also be allowed to confiscate the belongings of homeless individuals who refuse shelter. This revised legislation is a direct attempt to re-criminalize homelessness in Miami after a long-standing policy which instructed police to take a soft stance on public infractions committed by homeless individuals in order to sustain their lives, such as the cooking of a meal with fire in public and public defecation.

According to the Miami Herald, homeless shelters in Miami are full to capacity. If a homeless citizen feels that he or she is not mentally or physically safe in a dangerously overcrowded shelter, they should not be arrested and charged with a crime. Many homeless people avoid shelters for myriad reasons related to their own health and safety. Furthermore, by authorizing police to confiscate the belongings of homeless citizens who refuse shelter, the city of Miami is effectively enacting a policy which criminalizes the possession of property by people without the means for shelter. Stand with Florida’s homeless population; don’t let Miami pass new legislation against them.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: InspireFatePhotography via

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