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.

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