Coalition working on Homeless Bill of Rights to stop criminality of homelessness

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - There's a coalition of about 125 social justice groups working on a Homeless Bill of Rights to introduce to state legislatures within three months, according to Aljazeera America.

The goal is to end the criminalization of people who live on the streets.

Homeless people in Huntsville say it's desperately needed here. There are some 500 homeless people living in Huntsville currently.

Some report being harassed by police when they sit down to take a rest from walking a long distance. They complain about the lack of access of hygiene facilities and other things many people who are not homeless take for granted.

Clete Wetli, the Executive Director of First Stop Day Center for the homeless, says being homeless itself has been criminalized.

"To be homeless in Huntsville, you're violating a law somehow," said Wetli.  "There's loitering laws, vagrancy laws;  a wide variety of laws that make homelessness illegal and we think that those laws are discriminatory."

The coalition working on the Bill of Rights identified six rights that homeless people believe are most important.

They are:

  • The right to move freely and sleep in public spaces without discrimination
  • The right to sleep in a parked vehicle
  • The right to eat and exchange food in public
  • The right to obtain legal counsel
  • The right to access hygiene facilities 24/7
  • The right to use the necessity defense in any criminal prosecution

The coalition plans to have the bill ready to be sponsored and presented to legislatures nationwide in January 2015.

4 comments

  • kld

    there are many people who are just the loss of a job away from homelessness. It’s high time that the homeless in huntsville are given greater respect. Yes, some of them do make bad decisions, but a fair number of them are dealing with mental and physical illness. The health system is not serving them as they should. Judgemental attitudes are partially to blame.

  • styles johnson

    That’s all good. The homeless have to be treated with respect. That’s fine and I agree but the homeless have to adhere themselves to being respectful and not be social nuisances or hazards to themselves or the community. Now, Inspite of their conditions, especially if its not structurally mental, they have to want or desire to get out of their plight. The government is their biggest enabler because if you get to know these people so well, like I do, a bunch of them are on some kind of fixed income and any effort or desire to be held accountable for anything, like paying rent, light bills, buying food just intrudes on their buzz. Check in at the salvation army, the rescue mission and other shelters you’ll find that every first two weeks of every month, they are gone. They get their checks and run to motels to smoke and drink and do whores. After that they stand on corners looking so worn out and miserable for a dollar. Its a thin line.

  • styles johnson

    Its not criminalization. Hold these people accountable. Check them into rehabs for certain benefits. otherwise, this is a revolving door. Just give them the change and move on…

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