2018 Policy briefs

Begging for Change: Begging Restrictions Throughout Washington

Begging restrictions are increasingly popular, often illegal, and can make homelessness worse. Most Washington cities criminalize begging. Even peaceful requests for help can trigger violations, leading to serious collateral consequences that make it extremely difficult for already vulnerable people to access housing and employment.

Read Begging for Change: Begging Restrictions Throughout Washington.

It Takes a Village: Practical Guide for Authorized Encampments

Authorized encampments can be effective interim solutions. Cities are also trying authorized encampments as temporary solutions, but implementation has been haphazard due to a dearth of practical guidance. This guide summarizes the challenges and opportunities posed by various encampment models along the West Coast.

Read It Takes a Village: Practical Guide for Authorized Encampments.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Finding Safe Parking for Vehicle Residents

Safe parking is a must for people living in vehicles, a growing part of homeless populations. This guide examines case studies of successful safe parking programs in Washington and California that mitigate harm to vehicle residents and offer support that can lift people out of poverty and into stable, permanent housing.

Read Hidden in Plain Sight: Finding Safe Parking for Vehicle Residents.

What to Expect When You Are Arrested: A Guide to Navigating for Unhoused Defendants

Unhoused people who are arrested can be their own best advocate. Public defenders often are overworked and have little time to spend with clients; many defendants do not even receive one. But even represented unhoused defendants can help themselves with HRAP's first-of-its-kind guide to navigating courts.

Read What to Expect When You Are Arrested: A Guide to Navigating for Unhoused Defendants

Yes, In My Backyard: Building ADUs to Address Homelessness

Several cities around the country are experimenting with accessory dwellings -small units in residential backyards - to address housing shortages and homelessness crises. This guide analyzes innovative case studies in Colorado, Washington, California, and Oregon to provide lessons on structural design, project funding, screening and matching residents and hosts, legal issues, and public relations considerations.

Read Yes, In My Backyard: Building ADUs to Address Homelessness

Faith Is the First Step: Faith-Based Solutions to Homelessness

Faith-based organizations, such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, are important providers of social services; they also enjoy special legal protections, allowing them to provide shelter even when prohibited by local law. This guide surveys successful practices and key considerations from faith communities in Washington and Colorado.

Read Faith Is the First Step: Faith-Based Solutions to Homelessness

2016 Policy briefs

Shut Out: How Barriers Often Prevent Meaningful Access to Emergency Shelter

Most cities fine and even jail homeless people for living outside on the assumption that their alternative is to access homeless shelters. This brief finds that assumption deeply flawed.

Read Shut Out: How Barriers Often Prevent Meaningful Access to Emergency Shelter

Living at the Intersection: Laws & Vehicle Residency

When faced with the possibility of living entirely without shelter, people experiencing homelessness are turning in greater numbers to the last refuge they have available: their vehicles. This brief examines vehicle residency throughout Washington State, including the unique struggles faced by vehicle residents and local municipalities’ increasingly punitive responses.

Blurred Lines: Homelessness & the Increasing Privatization of Public Space

Downtown areas are a vital port for social services, human contact, the exercise of free speech, employment, food, and other necessary resources; however, visibly poor people are increasingly shut out as laws and policies increasingly restrict access to these core public spaces. This report examines the influence of Business improvement districts (BIDs) on the regulation of visible poverty in downtown public space.

No Rest for the Weary: Why Cities Should Embrace Homeless Encampments

Partly due to their visible nature, homeless encampments are often at the core of the debate about how local governments should deal with homelessness. This brief explains legal and policy considerations regarding encampments.

No Pets Allowed: Discrimination, Homelessness, and Pet Ownership

Pets contribute to the emotional well-being of people experiencing homelessness, but pet owners face constant scrutiny and harassment by both passersby and law enforcement officers. This brief addresses social and legal challenges faced by pet owners experiencing homelessness.

A Broken Dream: Homelessness & Immigrants

The U.S. foreign-born population is approximately 42.1 million and growing. This brief examines barriers that render this significant population particularly vulnerable to poverty and homelessness.

2015 Policy briefs

Washington's War on the Poor: A Survey of Criminalizing Ordinances & Their Enforcement

Cities increasingly enact laws that punish behaviors necessary for survival. Previously, no one knew how widespread these laws are throughout Washington State or how they are being enforced. This brief answers these questions, critiquing the legality and impact of these laws.

The Wrong Side of History: A Comparison of Modern and Historical Criminalization

The Wrong Side of History examines historical laws criminalizing people of color, poor people, and people with physical disabilities, demonstrating how these laws paved a way for today’s anti-homeless ordinances.

Discrimination at the Margins: The Intersectionality of Homelessness & Other Marginalized Groups

This brief exposes the intersectionality of homelessness and six other marginalized groups: racial minorities, women, LGBTQ individuals, individuals with a mental disability, incarcerated individuals, and veterans. It demonstrates how criminalization laws against homelessness express systemic and insidious discrimination against many already marginalized groups.

At What Cost: The Minimum Cost of Criminalizing Homelessness in Seattle and Spokane

Current approaches, which underinvest in affordable housing and prioritize the use of the criminal justice system to respond to homelessness, are the most expensive and least effective way to respond to homelessness. This Washington-specific analysis proves the redirection of funds from criminalization to affordable housing would create more lasting solutions and result in substantial cost savings.

Other activities

Anti-criminalization campaign

On September 26, 2014, Professor Rankin hosted and co-facilitated (with street activist Paul Boden) the first statewide meeting to end the criminalization of homelessness. As an outgrowth of this meeting, Professor Rankin and her partners coordinated a diverse, broad coalition of individuals and organizations, including people who are currently experiencing homelessness, to serve as a steering committee for a statewide anti-criminalization campaign. The inaugural meeting of the steering committee occurred at the SU School of Law on October 31, 2014; new members are welcome. The committee voted unanimously to adopt as its name the Washington Homeless Anti-Criminalization Campaign (WHACC) and adopted a mission statement. WHACC continues to meet to set and pursue key priorities. HRAP will continue to play a vital role in WHACC's work.

First statewide, street-level survey

HRAP, WHACC, and other partners are leading an effort to administer the first statewide surveys of homeless people concerning the impact of criminalization ordinances on their daily lives. As part of their class requirements, Professor Rankin's students will participate in at least one session of surveying homeless people in Washington. Over 150 surveys have already been conducted. Using a similar methodology and survey instrument as those conducted in other states, HRAP will incorporate the results of the surveys into policy advocacy work aimed at invalidating or preventing the enactment of these ordinances.

First nationwide repository of resources

HRAP is collaborating with the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the Berkeley Policy Advocacy Clinic to create and maintain the first nationwide repository of resources to help advocates seeking to combat criminalization of homelessness and poverty in their own jurisdictions. The database will be populated with resources such as (1) data and analyses; (2) replicable methodologies; (3) policy briefs; and (4) key cases and associates briefs. The plan is also for registered users to be able to communicate with each other and to contribute to the site as well.

Mobilization of academic partnerships

HRAP seeks to increase coordination across academic institutions in service of focused policy advocacy around homeless rights issues. For example, HRAP facilitated the first-of-its kind coordinated clinic-practicum between the Berkeley Policy Advocacy Clinic, the Seattle University School of Law's Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, and the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP). All participants observed many benefits from such a collaborative structure to research, collect and analyze data, and engage in coordinated, cross-jurisdictional policy advocacy work. HRAP continues to advance such specific coordinated partnerships between various academic institutions and community organizations to support statewide and national policy advocacy campaigns. HRAP's work may also provide some replicable models for other academic institutions.

Contact us

Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality
901 12th Avenue
Sullivan Hall 313
Seattle, WA 98122-1090
Phone: 206-398-4394
Fax: 206-398-4077

Please note: The Korematsu Center will conclude its tenure at Seattle University in June 2024. We are in the process of building a new center for civil rights that will continue this important work. To learn more about those plans and ways that you can support them, please contact Assistant Dean for Development and Alumni Affairs Feven Teklu at fteklu@seattleu.edu.