Meanest Cities

Sarasota, Florida, tops a list of the meanest cities in America compiled by the National Coalition for the Homeless and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Sarasota passed a law in 2005 that criminalizes homelessness, citing a person’s lack of any indoor place to live as a criterion for arrest. Little Rock, Arkansas, made third place on the list; its police reportedly kicked homeless men out of the city bus station, even though they had tickets. In its report on these and other mean cities, the two advocacy groups also commend cities that are trying constructive approaches to moving homeless people off the streets. They include day centers that are open when shelters are closed, and outreach teams that provide mental health services and link people to housing. (

Alan Mallach, senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress and the National Housing Institute, is the author of many works on housing and planning, including Bringing Buildings Back, A Decent Home, and Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective. He served as director of housing and economic development for Trenton, New Jersey, from 1990 to 1999, and teaches in the City and Regional Planning program at Pratt Institute.


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