In a country with the wealth of the United States, the fundamental human right to housing is surely not satisfied when an estimated 3 million people are homeless in any given year, including many who have been excluded from federally subsidized housing.
Exclusions based on criminal records ostensibly protect existing tenants. There is no doubt that some prior offenders still pose a risk and may be unsuitable neighbors in many of the presently-available public housing facilities. But U.S. housing policies are so arbitrary, overbroad, and unnecessarily harsh that they exclude even people who have turned their lives around and remain law-abiding, as well as others who may never have presented any risk in the first place.
3 million is an estimate that came out of nowhere. It is often used to push a political agenda. Most estimates based on social science methods estimated the homeless population between 300,000 to 400,000, ranging from a low of under 300,000 to a high of 700,000.
People with only 1 conviction of an offense that is not related to sex, drug, or violence can get an expungement and have their records sealed. However, people that make their living selling drug or prey upon others to get set or become violent are rightfully segregated from children and vulnerable adults that are found in public housing. There are halfway houses and homeless shelters that accept people with criminal records. No one has to be truly homeless, without shelter, except by choice.
Criminal records are public information. The entire court process was paid for by public money. The public is entitled to that information, which is almost instantly available from
online background checks
from many companies for a modest fee. The Federal Credit Reporting Act protect job applicants, tenants, and credit applicant from abuse of the information. If an applicant is refused, then he must be give a copy of the background check.
There are many places where a homeless person might seek refuge.
* Outdoors: On the ground or in a sleeping bag, tent, or improvised shelter, such as a large cardboard box, in a park or vacant lot. Santa Monica, California, was the homeless capital of the world because the homeless slept in public parks, showered at the beach showers, had meals delivered daily by charities, gawked at the beach women, and panhandled the tourists. Homeless in Santa Monica was too nice a life to leave.
* Hobo jungles/Shantytowns: Ad hoc campsites of improvised shelters and shacks, usually near rail yards.
* Derelict structures: abandoned or condemned houses or buildings, abandoned cars, and beached boats, generally referred to as squatting.
* Vehicles: cars or trucks are used as a temporary or sometimes long-term living refuge, for example by those recently evicted from a home. Some people live in vans, sport utility vehicles, covered pick-up trucks, station wagons, or hatchbacks.
* Public places: parks, bus or train stations, airports, public transportation vehicles (by continual riding where unlimited passes are available), hospital lobbies or waiting areas, college campuses, and 24-hour businesses such as coffee shops. Many public places use security guards or police to prevent people from loitering or sleeping at these locations for a variety of reasons, including image, safety, and comfort.
* Homelessness or emergency shelters such as Najidah and Raphael House
* City run homeless shelters such as emergency cold-weather shelters opened by churches or community agencies, which may consist of cots in a heated warehouse, or temporary Christmas Shelters.
* Inexpensive Boarding houses called flophouses offer cheap, low-quality temporary lodging.
* Residential hostels, where a bed as opposed to an entire room can be rented cheaply in a dorm-like environment.
* Inexpensive motels also offer cheap, low-quality temporary lodging. However, some who can afford housing live in a motel by choice. For example, David and Jean Davidson spent 22 years at a UK Travelodge.
* 24-hour Internet cafes are now used by over 5,000 Japanese \"Net cafe refugees\". An estimated 75% of Japan's 3,200 all-night internet cafes cater to regular overnight guests, who in some cases have become their main source of income.
* Friends or family: Temporarily sleeping in dwellings of friends or family members (\"couch surfing\"). Couch surfers may be harder to recognize than street homeless people.