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This brief addresses the intersectionality of homelessness and other marginalized groups. It examines six marginalized groups: racial minorities, women, individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ), individuals with a mental disability, incarcerated individuals, and veterans. The brief presents national and Washington State statistics to show how these six marginalized groups are represented in the homeless population compared to the general population. Moreover, it presents some of the causes of homelessness for these marginalized groups.

This policy brief is particularly important to homeless rights advocacy because it humanizes the homeless population by outlining who is homeless and why. Categorizing a diverse group of people as “homeless” blanches this diversity by presenting these people as a homogenous group. Homogenizing the people who are homeless facilitates their dehumanization, erasing not only their diverse identities, but also obscuring the diverse causes of their homelessness. Homogenization also encourages erroneous negative stereotypes, assumptions, and prejudices. This brief unveils the diverse identities and causes of homelessness. This unveiling reveals that marginalized groups are disproportionately represented in the homeless population, and are therefore, disproportionately targeted by the ordinances that criminalize homelessness. Moreover, these criminalization laws are evidence of systemic and insidious discrimination of many marginalized groups. Because society has already rejected laws that discriminatorily target many of these same marginalized groups, the results of this study should compel society to re-examine the impact of laws that criminalize homelessness. Ultimately, this brief argues that laws that criminalize homelessness should be rejected because they are discriminatory.

Keywords: public space, homelessness, race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, LGBTQ, homeless, poverty, constitutional rights, civil rights, human rights, criminalization, neoliberal