Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bill of Rights for the homeless. . .

My friend and CitySquare colleague, Will Goldman sent the following interesting report from the Huffington Post my way.  Let me hear your reactions.
Rhode Island Considers 'Homeless Bill Of Rights' To End Discrimination
By DAVID KLEPPER Posted: 05/14/2012 2:20 pm Updated: 05/14/2012 2:56 pm

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Eddie Vega has been homeless for a year. He was waiting for a bus one day last week when a police officer rolled up to ask what he was doing and where he was headed. Vega said it's the kind of subtle harassment that happens all the time.

"I get the looks," said the 31-year-old Providence man, squinting because he recently lost his glasses in a fight that also left him with stitches on his forehead. "It's the same hassle everywhere. Happens every day. There's nothing you can do. You speak up and you get in trouble."

Vega had just finished a bologna sandwich at a weekly soup kitchen set up in the Rhode Island Statehouse, where lawmakers are now considering first-of-its kind legislation that would create a "Homeless Bill of Rights" intended to give people like Vega greater protection from discrimination.

The bill would specifically prohibit law enforcement, health care workers, potential landlords or employers from treating homeless people unfairly because of their housing status. The measure's sponsor, Sen. John Tassoni, said most Americans probably aren't aware of the daily discrimination faced by homeless people.

"Nobody decides one day they want to be homeless," said the Smithfield Democrat. "And nobody deserves to put up with the stuff these people have to deal with every day. It's time we did something to stop the appalling things that go on."

Read the entire report here.


Anonymous said...

My first response is "you can't legislate hearts and minds," which is what this is largely about. But then I realized that people said the same thing about civil rights in the 60's. While you can't change hearts and minds with laws, you can change behavior, and that's a good start.

Anonymous said...

I don't pretend to know if the legislation will be successful, but I do know that it is attempting to address the problem, and that is a good start. I have worked for the last 6 years in the apartment industry, and am concerned about the direction the industry is headed; I believe it will increase the number of homeless people. I have also heard police officers (whom I generally respect) say inappropriate things about the homeless in our community. The problem is sad and pervasive; therefore,I hugely admire your work in fighting these issues, and am personally searching for meaningful ways to impact my own community.