Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Introduction

     The criminalization of homelessness, defined as the punitive social reaction to life-sustaining behaviors and activities engaged in by persons experiencing homelessness, has dramatically been on the rise across the nation for better than two decades. This regressive approach in response to burgeoning homelessness has been documented in seminal reports from the National Coalition for the Homeless, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and other regional homeless advocacy organizations. Implemented primarily via the agency of municipal government, nearly every state in the nation has seen an increase in the number of laws prohibiting life-sustaining activities like camping, sleeping in vehicles, begging/panhandling, performing bodily functions (even in the absence of public restrooms), storing personal property outdoors and, perhaps most egregiously, the sharing of food by both secular and faith-based institutions.
        In response to these oppressive measures which serve no documented function whatsoever in terms of moving society in the direction of ending homelessness, homeless persons and advocates have united to bring ‘Right-to-Rest’ or Homeless Bill of Rights legislation to their respective states. Three states now include HBoR’s among their statutes – Rhode Island, Connecticut and Illinois – while a host of others have brought forth similar proposals in recent years but have yet to see them passed: California, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Delaware. The latter’s legislature is considering a Homeless Bill of Rights at the time of this writing.
          Florida, which a variety of reports suggest may be the #1 state in the nation in terms of its criminalization of homelessness, arguably needs to adopt such a measure for the protection of the basic human rights and dignity of homeless persons more than any other.

The working draft which follows is being published as a tool for promoting our group’s – Florida Homelessness Action Coalition (FL-HAC) – effort to attract a wide range of support from other homeless advocacy org’s, civil social justice groups, faith-based institutions, legislative sponsors and others.  If your group wishes to formally endorse and/or help promote our effort please email Jeff Weinberger of the Fort Lauderdale-based October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness, at browardhomeless@gmail.com; or Adam Tebrugge, Florida ACLU Staff Attorney, at atebrugge@aclufl.org.  

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