United Nations Condemns Criminalization of Homelessness in the U.S.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination stated it is “concerned at the high number of homeless persons, who are disproportionately from racial and ethnic minorities and at the criminalization of homelessness through laws that prohibit activities such as loitering, camping, begging, and lying in public spaces.”

 The art of Art Hazelwood reminds us that the constitutional rights of homeless people are constantly violated by political officials and the police.

The art of Art Hazelwood reminds us that the constitutional rights of homeless people are constantly violated by political officials and the police.

 

by Jeremy Rosen, NLCHP

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva today stated it is “concerned at the high number of homeless persons, who are disproportionately from racial and ethnic minorities … and at the criminalization of homelessness through laws that prohibit activities such as loitering, camping, begging, and lying in public spaces.”

The U.N. Committee called upon the U.S. government to take corrective action. The Committee further included criminalization of homelessness in a short list of topics it wants the United States to “provide detailed information in its next periodic report on concrete measures taken to implement these recommendations.” The U.S. government’s next report is due in 2017.

The U.N. Committee’s statement is part of its Concluding Recommendations, following a two-day review of U.S. government compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a treaty ratified by the U.S. government in 1994.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP), which had submitted a report to the U.N. Committee as part of the review process, applauded the Committee’s findings.

“Criminally punishing people simply for having no legal place continues to put the U.S. on the wrong foot on the international stage,” said Maria Foscarinis, NLCHP Executive Director.

The organization issued a major report on the criminalization of homelessness in July, and litigates to challenge the practice. “We welcome the Committee’s Concluding Observations and call on our government to take swift action to solve homelessness with homes, not jails and prisons.”

Jeremy Rosen, Director of Advocacy at NLCHP, was in Geneva for the hearings and stated, “The Committee’s review also addressed the broader criminalization of race, highlighted by recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, around the killing of Michael Brown. Because homelessness disparately affects racial minorities, and because homeless persons are often more visible on the streets, this often compounds their profiling and ill-treatment by police. Until the U.S. reduces racial disparities in housing, we’re going to continue to see them in criminal justice, and vice versa.”

Echoing the recommendations of the U.N  Human Rights Committee in March, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on the U.S. to: “(a) Abolish laws and policies making homelessness a crime; (b) Ensure close cooperation among all relevant stakeholders, including social, health, law enforcement and justice professionals at all levels to intensify efforts to find solutions for the homeless in accordance with human rights standards; and (c) Offer incentives to decriminalize homelessness, including financial support to local authorities that implement alternatives to criminalization, and withdrawing funding from local authorities that criminalize homelessness.”

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty is a national organization providing legal and legislative advocacy, advocacy training, public education, and impact litigation.

The Homeless

by Claire J. Baker

might not slip through

the social and

economic safety net

if the net didn’t have

so many invisible

holes. Or the net was

not made so flimsy

from the Get-Go!

.

.

BANG!  BOOM!

by Claire J. Baker

Having served & survived

a country’s premeditated war —

(legalized murder & mayhem)

survivors may face:

PTSD,

divorce papers,

a dissolved family,

loss of limb(s) or mind;

social maladjustment,

survival guilt —

all post-war tickets

for the embattled land

of homelessness where

no one wins, because

to survive takes

special skills for which

one is not trained.

Good people,

where are we going

with war after war

after war?

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