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I’m usually inclined to only write about “Best” and “Worst” lists that Washington D.C. actually makes. But this time, I’m making an exception. 

A list of the nation’s 20 “meanest” cities for the poor has been compiled by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. The list is very diverse and includes many of the country’s largest cities/metro areas. Thankfully, we’re not on it.

Here are some of the report’s findings, according to an MSNBC story:

  • Criminalization of the homeless increasingly occurs in ways like making it illegal to sit, sleep or place personal belongings in a public space. Some police departments make more aggressive sweeps of areas known to be populated by the homeless.
  • Twenty-seven percent of the cities surveyed prohibit sitting or lying in certain public places, a 14 percent increase over the number of cities surveyed in the groups’ last report, in 2002.
  • Forty-three percent of the cities surveyed bar begging in certain public places, a 12 percent increase over 2002.

At first I thought the included cities would fit a profile: Large, sprawling, decentralized, perhaps with a conservative bent, and lacking natural gathering points for the homeless. There are certainly some cities like that: Atlanta (4), Houston (7), San Antonio (13), Anchorage (16).

But there are also small cities on the list: Sarasota (1) and Lawrence Ka. (2), for example. And large, dense cities: San Francisco (11), Chicago (12), New York City (14).

Image by brownpau, Flickr Creative Commons