One of my students came in this week as as if I’d seen the L.A. Times piece on the Occupy movement and homelessness. I had not, and she proceeded to inform me that for many protestors, the experience of residing outside in public spaces was creating a learning experience of sorts. They were understanding a bit of what it feels like to experience homelessness for one major reason: nowhere to pee.
There are not many public restrooms in U.S. cities, and after businesses close it is not easy for a person to find a private, or legal place to relieve themselves. And that’s not the only illegal action Occupiers have to confront. “As the Occupy Wall Streeters are beginning to discover, and homeless people have known all along, many ordinary and biologically necessary activities are illegal when performed in American streets — not just urinating but sitting, lying down and sleeping.”
For instance, “In Sarasota, Fla…it is illegal for someone to sleep in public if, when awakened, he says he has ‘no other place to live.'” On L.A.’s Skid Row it is illegal to lay or sleep during the day, but after a long fight it became legal for people to sleep on sidewalks between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
However, unlike those experiencing homelessness, Occupiers receive less negative attention from law enforcement and government officials. A few weeks ago it rained, and Mayor Villaragosa had ponchos distributed to nearby Occupy L.A. protesters. I doubt the coverings made it to Skid Row.