Leadership on Criminalization of Homelessness Needs to Be Matched By Commitment to Housing


Federal Government Receives Failing Grades on Ensuring Housing Rights

Washington, D.C. – December 11, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — On December 10, 2015, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty issued its annual report card on the human right to housing in the U.S., praising the progress of the federal government in addressing the criminalization of homelessness, but condemning its ongoing failure to stem the tide of homelessness by ensuring adequate, affordable housing is available to all.

“This year we are happy to report a significant improvement in the federal government’s grade on criminalization in response to international attention and domestic advocacy,” said Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the Law Center. “Congress mandated the Administration to address criminalization in 2009, and since 2012, the government has referred to criminalization of homelessness as a human rights violation. This year it accepted a recommendation from the UN Human Rights Council to end it, and has taken several significant steps to implement that recommendation. ”

This August, the Department of Justice filed a brief in the Law Center’s case against a Boise, Idaho anti-camping ordinance, stating “[i]t should be uncontroversial that punishing conduct that is a universal and unavoidable consequence of being human violates the Eighth Amendment . . . Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity - i.e., it must occur at sometime in some place.  If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless.” The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness also issued guidance on encampments, specifically stating, “The forced dispersal of people from encampment settings is not an appropriateolution or strategy.” A month later, the Department of Housing & Urban Development followed through by creating funding incentives to stop criminalization in their $1.9 billion grant program for homeless Continuums of Care

Contact: Sarah Knutson
(202) 638-2535 ext. 105
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