Thomas Dutcher, University of New Haven
"It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life … and those who are in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy and the handicapped" (Vice President Humphry as cited in Platt & Library of Congress, 1989). The importance of studying the criminalization of homelessness and persons experiencing homelessness, particularly through coercive care tactics, is revealed through Humphry’s words. He argues from a moralistic perspective, finding it to be the duty of the state in creating its legitimacy to protect vulnerable populations, such as persons experiencing homelessness. A Marxist interpretation of the importance of this topic would argue that capitalistic societies create "those without,” establishing perennial homelessness, and its criminalization will not change this fact (Lynch & Michalowski, 2010). From a human rights perspective, we find importance in examining how persons experiencing homelessness also perceive the police to be barriers to services they may be attempting to receive (Welsh & Abdel-Samad, 2018).
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