What Rights Do the Homeless Have?

September 24, 2019

In 2014, a some cities in Hawaii passed legislation
making it illegal to sit or lie on sidewalks. These laws were quickly challenged as being
discriminatory towards the homeless. In fact, many cities have passed similar laws specifically
criminalizing homeless behavior. So, what rights do the homeless have in America? In 2013 the number of homeless in the united
States passed 600,000, and that number is growing. Many who are homeless find it more
difficult to find employment and housing, regardless of their ability. The stigma of
homelessness is a powerful obstruction in the lives of many Americans. Yet despite the
inherent difficulty in being homeless, a number of social institutions seek to make it even
harder, in order to benefit less disenfranchised groups. As many as a third of US cities had laws criminalizing
sitting or lying in a public space. These legal codes effectively make it illegal to
be homeless without addressing the issue of homelessness. This is done by specifically
targeting unavoidable homeless behavior, while espousing the idea that the law is intended
to prevent a broader form of nuisance. Laws against loitering, vagrancy, begging, or sleeping
in streets and parks means that many are forced into homeless shelters or to make their way
to cities with laxer anti-homeless laws. This selective legislation is not a new idea. In
1894, a famed French writer commented, that ”the law, in its majestic equality, forbids
the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal
bread.” However, not all states are so reticent to
acknowledge homeless rights. In Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Illinois, some legislation
is referred to as a “Homeless Bill of Rights”. It attempts to guarantee equal access for
all to: medical care, free speech, free movement, voting rights, employment opportunities, and
privacy. Additionally, Puerto Rico and some US states including California, Texas, Florida,
and Maryland have laws protecting the homeless as potential hate crime targets. With a widening inequality gap, rising poverty,
and less mental health funding, homelessness is an unavoidable problem in the United States.
Laws specifically targeting those who need the most help are evasive solutions to a much
larger problem. For a closer look at the lives of America’s
homeless, check out this video from This Happened here. Or for an overview on the number of
homeless people in America check out video below. Thanks for watching TestTube News.
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