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Without housing options, people often are forced to rely on culverts, public parks, streets, and abandoned buildings as places to sleep and carry out daily activities that most reserve for the privacy of their own home. As communities recognize and struggle with the fact that people without homes often live in public spaces, multiple strategies arise. Unfortunately, many of these strategies include policies that criminalize homelessness. In a new report, In the Public Eye, author Lucy Adams, of Australia’s Justice Connect and guest blogger at USICH elevates the conversation.
by Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director
Yesterday marked the fourth Anniversary of the launch of Opening Doors, the first-ever Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. In four years, we have changed the trajectory of homelessness in America. In just the first three years of implementation, Opening Doors led to significant reductions in homelessness, including an eight percent reduction in homelessness among families, a 16 percent reduction in chronic homelessness, and a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans. And we are hopeful that we will be able announce even greater reductions when the 2014 Point-In-Time Count data are available later this year.
The progress we are making across the nation has proven that Opening Doors is the right plan with the right set of strategies. Opening Doors also provides a foundation and scaffolding upon which we can continue to innovate and refine the solutions that will end homelessness in this country.
This year, we’re considering amending the plan again to include more of what we’ve learned from our progress.
In March, I had the privilege of going on a ride-along in the HOT van with Sergeant Schnell and his partner, Officer John Liening. I’ve known Sergeant Schnell and Officer Liening for about 10 years or more. The HOT and SIP teams are profiled in USICH’s publication Searching Out Solutions, and they have provided training to police departments in many other parts of the country. But this was my first chance to witness, in person, their daily efforts to create meaningful alternatives to criminalization for the vulnerable men and women who are living unsheltered on the streets of my hometown, San Diego.
USICH Regional Coordinator Amy Sawyer explains why policies that criminalize homelessness are not only morally wrong but also ineffective solutions to ending homelessness in communities.
By Liz Osborn, USICH Management and Program Analyst
In this blog, Liz Osborn answers the question: What benefits and challenges do organizations face when addressing the issue of homelessness from a human rights perspective?
Jim Ryczek (pictured right), Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, recounts the journey he and his friend and fellow advocate John Joyce (pictured left) embarked upon in order to create a bill of rights on behalf of people experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island.
Regional Coordinator for USICH Amy Sawyer closes out our Human Rights series by reflecting on the stories that have been shared and reminding us that now is the time to act to ensure human rights for people experiencing homelessness.
Eric Tars, Director of Human Rights & Children’s Rights Programs at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, praises Federal progress on homelessness while outlining the neccessity of ensuring that everyone is able to maintain their basic human dignity, which is impossible when someone is experiencing homelessness.
01/15/2014 - I Believe in Human Rights: Homelessness is Criminal—People Experiencing Homelessness Are Not
Discussing the issue of criminalizing homelessness, Maria Foscarinis of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty explains how punishing people experiencing homelessness in an attempt to hide the issue of homelessness raises human rights concerns while detracting from actual efforts to solve homelessness.
Maha Jweied of the U.S. Department of Justice describes how the criminalization of homelessness not only attempts to hide the issue of homelessness instead of addressing it but also violates the fundamental rights of people experiencing homelessness. Therefore, while the criminalization of homelessness continues, the right to counsel is a critical defense for those experincing homelessness.