USICH Blog

01/17/2014 - I Believe in Human Rights: Now is the Time to Act

By Amy Sawyer, USICH Regional Coordinator

As the “I believe in Human Rights” series comes to a close, I find myself energized by the passion, stories, and experience the guest bloggers have shared.   While we can not walk away from the pains caused by restrictions on human rights, we can find ways to heal, to forgive, and to challenge ourselves to act now to open up opportunities to people experiencing homelessness so that they may quickly access housing and stability.

In my work as a regional coordinator at USICH, I have seen powerful examples of people coming together, doing the hard work of relationship building, and collaborating to find answers to ending homelessness that embrace human rights.  Law enforcement officers have been welcomed by homeless providers, working side by side to grow outreach teams that seek to connect people to resources instead of pin them to a charge.  Advocates have partnered with housing developers to create a welcoming housing environment, accessible to people with criminal backgrounds.  Businesses and faith groups have banded together in partnership with local agencies to create support groups that walk beside someone as they move from streets to housing.  Local artists have used their talent to tell the story of homelessness, sharing profits and energy to build motivation among all members in the community to act.

And the list goes on and on.  The common theme is that instead of a problem, community members see ending homelessness and supporting human rights for people facing homelessness as a challenge.  A challenge that calls on everyone, including people experiencing homelessness, to share their thoughts, perspectives, and ability in order to develop a cohesive and creative approach.  Facing the challenge of embracing human rights and ending homelessness requires an appreciation for change, honesty, and a willingness to hit a few bumps in the road.

Our Solutions Database is full of examples of how people approach the challenge of ending homelessness, which come from communities across our country and our international partners.  I encourage you to study them, reach out to communities that you want to learn more about, and share your successes with us so that we can continue to expand our knowledge base. 

As the Human Rights series closes, I’d like to leave you with a frequently mentioned and paraphrased quote from Hillel the Elder.  It was something that I was asked during a state conference on homelessness many years ago, and a challenge that continues to echo in my mind: “If not now, when? If not you, who?”  Now is the time to ensure that everyone has a safe, stable place to call home, and it is up to us all to make it happen. Together we can guarantee that everyone, regardless of their housing situation, has access to the human rights afforded to them by our nation. Together, we can end homelessness.  

Click here to view more on Human Rights and Homelessness

USICH's regional coordinators convene stakeholders at every level of government and with the private sector, encouraging implementation of strategies that maximize the impact of Federal resources and supporting strategic planning efforts.

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