WRAP Members & Allies launch Homeless Bill of Rights

   

WRAP: E-Newsletter

December 3, 2012

Homeless Bill of Rights from Rhode Island to California
to Oregon . As the crow flies…………….AWAY!!

Building off our brothers and sisters in Rhode Island WRAP member groups are introducing Homeless Bill of Rights in both California and Oregon.

Thanks to Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, California saw it’s bill introduced TODAY! December 3, 2012.
“Homeless Persons’ Bill of Rigths and Fairness Act” AB 5

From Ugly Laws to Sundown Towns to Anti-Okie legislation to today’s Broken Windows ordinances, municipalities have been using their power of being able to create law and have Police Departments at their disposal to make sure this laws apply only to “certain” people. This has been a shameful but time-honored tradition of communities throughout this country. WRAP seeks not just to halt today’s most recent example of this shameful trend, but to stop it from ever happening again!

Don’t just read history. Make it!!

Homeless Persons Bill of Rights and Fairness Act
Introduced to Assembly

DECEMBER 3, 2012Building off of Rhode Islands community effort, a coalition of West Coast organizations is working with Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) to introduce a Homeless Persons Bill of Rights and Fairness Act today.

The bills author, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, said, We need to stop criminalizing the behavior of people who have nowhere else to turn. People who are in need of mental health services or who have lost their jobs and their homes are being told, Move along or go to jail. The Homeless Persons Bill of Rights begins to give us a framework for appropriate approaches to protecting our communities and those who are vulnerable.

From the Ugly Laws of the mid-19th centurywhich made it a crime to have a visible disability in publicthrough the anti-Okie law of the Great Depressionwhich made it a crime for poor people to enter the stateup through the present, state and local governments have used unjust laws to punish or conceal poor people, said Paul Boden, Organizing Director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP). But as long as these laws have existed, theres been resistance. Were introducing this bill of rights because we believe that the time has come to address the wrongs and most importantly stop them from ever happening again.

The effort is a collaboration between WRAP, Jericho: A Voice for Justice, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty. Judith Larson of Jericho said, This is the essence of what Jericho was formed to do, and has continued to do for the past 25 years.

WRAP has conducted over 800 surveys concerning homeless peoples interactions with law enforcement. 82% of survey respondents had been hassled by law enforcement for sleeping. 78% had had interactions with law enforcement simply because theyd been hanging out in a public space. 77% had been harassed by law enforcement for sitting down. Becky Dennison, Co-Director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, said, When weve criminalized sleeping, standing, and sitting down, weve basically criminalized a persons existence. A bill like this is long overdue.

The Act would guarantee homeless people freedom from discrimination in law enforcement, employment, housing and shelter, and public benefits. It protects peoples right to use public space, to keep personal property, and to engage in life-sustaining activities. It also guarantees people the right to counsel in any case where theyre being prosecuted. Paula Lomazzi from Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee said, These are basic rights that allow all people to stay alive and engage in a democratic societythings most of us get to take for granted, but which remain a daily challenge for many of the poorest members of our communities.

California Homeless Bill of Rights Fact Sheet

Laws that segregate, that make criminals of people based on their status rather than their behavior, or that prohibit certain peoples right to be in public spaces are not just sad relics from the past: Today, numerous laws infringe on poor peoples ability to exist in public space, to acquire housing, employment, and basic services, and to equal protection under the law. The California Homeless Bill of Rights is a response that can help alleviate poverty and homelessness while protecting homeless people from discrimination and ensuring their right to privacy and to their personal property.

Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D, San Francisco) is the author of the California Homeless Persons Bill of Rights and Fairness Act. The bill is co-sponsored by, Western Regional Advocacy Project, Western Center on Law and Poverty and JERICHO: A Voice for Justice.

The following rights of homeless people are enumerated in the bill:

Freedom from discrimination based on homeless status:
In interactions with law enforcement, security guards, business owners, property managers, or BID agents.
When seeking or maintaining employment.
When seeking or maintaining housing or shelter.
When seeking services (public benefits, medical care, help from police).
In completing all necessary steps to vote.

Property rights:
Freedom from unreasonable searches and/or seizures of personal property.

Access to public space:
Freedom to use public spaces: to move freely through them, to use them for rest, to own and possess private property in public spaces, to share, accept, and/or give food in public spaces.

Right to safety:
The right to the same protections that law enforcement agencies are supposed to afford to all other citizens, including the right to reasonable protection from domestic violence, sexual assault, hate crimes, and robberies.
The right to make their own decisions regarding whether or not to enter into public or private shelters or social service programs.

Right to engage in life sustaining activities:
The right to sufficient health and hygiene centers available 24 hours including bathrooms and showers.
The right to sleep, stand, sit, possess personal property, eat,or to engage in other life-sustaining activities.
The right to occupy vehicles while legally parked on public property.

Rights to privacy/confidentiality of housing status, poverty status, health status.
The right to confidentiality of personal records regarding housing status, income level, mental illness, physical disability.

Right to counsel:
The right to quality defense counsel in criminal hearings and civil warrants, when possible punishment might include jail time or commitment to a public health institution.
Rights of homeless schoolchildren:
Counties and municipalities must adhere to the Federal law so homeless children can remain in the same school that they had attended before becoming homeless or immediate enrollment in a new school.

Other rights:
The right to restitution if the victim of a crime.
The right to restitution for loss of, damage to, or destroyed property and/or personal belongings.
The right to purchase goods and services.

Enforcement:
Monitor enforcement of local ordinances affecting homeless people by ensuring that information regarding the citation of homeless people by law enforcement be available to homeless people and their advocates.

The following rights are aspirational in the bill:

Right to shelter:
Right to shelter 24/7 for all people.
All shelter shall be sanitary and safe.

Right to basic services, income, and to perform life-sustaining activities:
The right to safe, decent, permanent affordable housing.
The right to income.
The right to access medical facilities and quality healthcare.

Rights of homeless schoolchildren:
The right to be provided the supplies necessary for academic success (backpacks, textbooks, notebooks, pencils, pens, and appropriate academic technology).

Homelessness as it relates to this bill will be defined as:

Definition of Homelessness:
This bill creates a state standard that defines as homeless those who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence and who have a primary nighttime residence in a shelter, on the street, in a vehicle, in an enclosure or structure that is not authorized or fit for human habitation, sub-standard apartments, dwellings, doubled up temporarily, or who are staying in transitional housing programs. This includes anyone staying in residential hotels without tenancy rights, and families with children staying in residential hotels whether or not they have tenancy rights”.

Why a Homeless People’s Bill of Rights?

Because with inequality reaching record numbers and Californias inequality the greatest in the country, we are seeing a wave of discriminatory laws in our cities that target mostly people without homes. Commonly called quality of life or nuisance legislation, they criminalize sleeping, sitting, and even food-sharing in public spaces. Just like the discriminatory laws from the past, they deny people their right to exist in local communities and to equal protection under the law.

Municipalities have a long history of using mean-spirited laws to keep certain people non-visible: Jim Crow against African Americans, Sundown Towns (be out of town bynightfall),anti-Okie and Wetback policies, Ugly Laws against people with unsightly or disgusting disabilities. Today it is homeless people who are the target.

TheHomeless Peoples Bill of Rights is a response that protects homeless people from this kind of discrimination. It also is designed to reduce the impact

of homelessnesson communities and individuals by diverting investment from criminalization to stabilizationefforts.

WRAP is proud to be a major part of this effort!
We are laying the foundation for systemic changes on behalf of people who are too often disenfranchised, too often without voice. We feel stronger
this year than ever before. We are fortunate to have dedicated volunteers, but with a minimal staff and a minimal budget, we rely on your support.

– Stand Up! Fight Back! Your donation to WRAP will go a long way to stoppingdiscrimination. Check out our merchandise page.you can support this campaign and get cool stuff too!!!

 

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