DOJ calls it unconstitutional to ban homeless from sleeping outs - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

DOJ calls it unconstitutional to ban homeless from sleeping outside

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

The Department of Justice recently called it unconstitutional to treat homeless people sleeping in public places like criminals, when they have no where else to go.

Meanwhile, Springfield Police say they're cracking down.

Bill Miller, the Executive Director of Friends of the Homeless, is helping the homeless find a better path.

"That's really our goal. Not whether they sleep outside, or a shelter, but can we help them not be homeless anymore," said Miller.

In a survey, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that a third of the nation's cities had laws banning camping in public. 

Springfield is one of those cities. Police say they take it seriously.

"For many homeless people, finding a safe and legal place to sleep can be difficult or even impossible. In many cities, shelters are unable to accommodate all who are homeless. These individuals must find space in a public shelter or sleep on the street," The Justice Department said in a statement. 

"Unfortunately, we've seen more women this summer then the two winter's past. So, there are definitely people struggling, but people are working hard," said Miller.

Some residents that Western Mass News spoke with, say they agree with the Department of Justice.

"Of course they have rights like anybody else. So, help them out. Let's start with the shelters. Get them cleaned out and running right," said Francisco Ramos from Springfield. "Some of these shelters, or wherever they take them, they're stealing there, there's all sorts of things going on in there, so a lot of them don't feel safe."

Meanwhile, Miller says Springfield has gone above and beyond and hopes others will do the same. 

"Most of the people are from Springfield and there is capacity for that, but we need other communities to step up as well," he said. "I think if the federal government is going to say that people have a right to sleep, they should go a step forward and say that have a right to live in general."

As of now, it's unclear how it will impact the city.

Copyright 2015 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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