Every day, throughout the day, the homeless have to worry about the law. Being without a home is not in itself illegal, but the routines and behavior that go with it often are. Sleeping and grooming in public might also be trespassing, open lewdness, nuisance, loitering, or vagrancy. Rummaging for food might be theft. Just walking into a business might offend or frighten people enough that the police are called to remove a homeless patron. Once arrested, the homeless often do not have proof of identification and cannot afford attorneys.
Even more than the risk of being arrested, the homeless have to concern themselves with when and how the law will protect them. They are victims of attack, unpaid day workers, parties to contracts… citizens with a panoply of needs. Perhaps they are hassled or have had their possessions taken or damaged. Maybe they are given spoiled food. They may want to ask for help from the police or government agencies, but requests are met with demands for personal information. People who don’t have addresses may be afraid of bad results if they don’t have an answer for every line on a form.
People with these kinds of vulnerability are clearly in need of information. If they know their rights, they understand what to ask for. If they can describe a problem in the language of legal and societal institutions, they might get better help. If they realize how the law relates to them, they feel justified in their claims and validated as humans. Unable to pay for lawyers, the homeless often go to the internet for information. That is why this blog is here, to help homeless people figure out how to do legal research that will enable them to figure out answers to their legal questions. Click on one of the categories on the side to see the homeless law research questions.