By Sheriff John Tharp and Maria Foscarinis, Esq. Guest Writers for HuffPost 05/31/2018
“Fining people who don’t even have enough money for rent isn’t productive or humane.”
When San Diego resident Gerald Stark’s rent increased and he couldn’t afford another apartment, the retired union pipefitter moved into his RV. But because he lacked an address, San Diego law made it almost impossible for him to park his RV legally, and it was not long before the city confiscated it, leaving him with no other place to live but the streets. There, he was ticketed for violating another law prohibiting sleeping in public. Faced with thousands of dollars in fines and fees he was unable to pay, Stark lived every day in fear of being arrested — for simply trying to survive.
He is not alone. As rents and housing costs skyrocket in cities across the country — there isn’t a single county in the United States where you can afford to rent a two-bedroom market-rate apartment working a full-time, minimum-wage job — many of our neighbors are just one health emergency, car repair or missed paycheck away from losing their homes. Once you lose your home and overstay your welcome with family members or friends, you have only two choices: staying in a shelter, which is often filled to capacity, or surviving on the streets. But what do you do when trying to survive is a crime?