Report: Greensboro Homeless Disproportionately Targeted By Police

Report: Greensboro Homeless Disproportionately Targeted By Police

7:30am Nov 13, 2019

People experiencing homelessness in Greensboro face major barriers to attaining permanent housing and financial stability, according to a new study by UNCG, Guilford College, and the Homeless Union of Greensboro. 

The report, based on interviews and public records spanning 2017- 2019, found those facing homelessness in Greensboro lack access to affordable housing and emergency shelters. Of the more than 200 people interviewed for the study, 84% said they have been unable to find a shelter bed at least once. 

Study authors also say homeless people are unfairly targeted by Greensboro police officers, particularly if they’re minorities. The report suggests Greensboro police issued a disproportionate number of citations for crimes like loitering to people who listed shelters as their permanent addresses. 

Report co-author Dr. Justin Harmon of UNCG says some city ordinances effectively criminalize poverty. 

“We just need to sort of shift our perspective on how we see poverty and the strategies that we employ in trying to curb it," says Harmon. "So I would like to see positive changes in terms of understanding how the ordinances we come up with and enact impact specific people who are, from the outset, marginalized.” 

People without access to stable shelter also have a harder time finding adequate legal representation when facing criminal or civil issues, the report found. 

LaTonya Jenkins, with the Homeless Union of Greensboro, says she hopes the findings prompt city officials to take action.

“This city would be a perfect example and model to end mass incarceration and homelessness. It all ties in and in together,” says Jenkins. 

The Greensboro Police Department has declined to comment.

Harmon says study authors plan to share their findings at a city council meeting in the coming weeks.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the Greensboro Police Department has declined to comment.

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