Campaigners push for Homeless Bill of Rights
A coalition of over 125 social justice groups in the U.S. is campaigning for a Homeless Bill of Rights to be introduced to state legislatures, in an effort to end the criminalization of people who live on the streets.
Advocates working in Colorado, California and Oregon have argued that local laws have criminalized life-sustaining actions such as sitting or sleeping in public places. They argue that these laws unfairly target those perceived as undesirable, including the homeless, in an attempt to push them out of public spaces.
“Imagine if every shopper in Times Square that sat down got a ticket. It would never happen. It’s so blatantly racist and classist,” Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), told Al Jazeera. He noted that those earmarked for police attention tended to be nonwhite and dressed in such a way to suggest poverty.
The coalition has compiled over 1,300 interviews with homeless individuals and said it has identified six priority areas to be included in the Homeless Bill of Rights: the right to move freely and sleep in public spaces without discrimination; the right to sleep in a parked vehicle; the right to eat and exchange food in public; the right to obtain legal counsel; the right to access hygiene facilities 24/7 and the right to use the defense of necessity in any criminal prosecution. In the coming months, the coalition will work with lawyers to develop the bill based on the most common complaints in each of the three states, and then find state representatives to sponsor the bills.
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