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Community Development , Homelessness , State News

Advancing the Homeless Bill of Rights in Connecticut

28 May 2013

"When the time is ripe for certain things, they appear at different places in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.”

A year ago, a man named Aldene Burton approached me with the idea for a Connecticut Homeless Bill of Rights just as I was following the Rhode Island Homeless Bill of Rights legislation. Burton hadn’t heard of Rhode Island’s quest, and this is known as a “multiple independent discovery.” Discoveries aren’t usually singular and heroic, but are found at the same time by different people – like the theory of evolution. And calculus. In this case, people experiencing homelessness in two different states were arriving at a similar conclusion, and other states are lining up.

This conclusion is that discrimination, mistreatment, and a loss of civil liberties abound for homeless people. Being called a bum, being told to move along by police or security guards, losing a job because an employer learns of a person’s homelessness, not being able to testify at a public hearing because it runs past 7 p.m., having one’s belongings searched or seized with no respect for privacy – these are a few injustices facing members of our community experiencing homelessness.

The need to ameliorate these injustices isn’t solely about human rights, but also about our work to end homelessness. Until people experiencing homelessness are subject to equal treatment under the law and treated with the same dignity and respect as housed folks, our work to end homelessness will fall short. Until we can change perceptions, eliminate stigma, and end discrimination, a Homeless Bill of Rights is needed to ensure the equal protection and treatment of all Connecticut residents.

In Connecticut, we have done incredibly well to see the Homeless Bill of Rights, S.B. 896, introduced, drafted, voted out of four committees, approved by the Senate, and is awaiting the attention of the House. Now we’re waiting, and pushing, for our turn.

Please join us in advancing Homeless Human Rights.

Nathan Fox is a community organizer and a Faces of Homelessness coordinator.

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