Archive for August, 2011

UN Expert: Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S is Cruel and Inhumane

Friday, August 26th, 2011

For Immediate Release – – GENEVA, CH – Today, in an official report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, a top UN investigator said that the United States’ failure to provide homeless persons access to water and sanitary facilities “could […] amount to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.”  The report was issued by UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque.


“The Rapporteur’s report is the latest in a series of condemnations by international experts of the criminalization and mistreatment of homeless persons in the U.S.,” said Eric Tars, human rights program director at the National Law Center on Homelessness  Poverty (Law Center), which helped facilitate her visit. “Earlier this year, the U.S. committed itself before the Human Rights Council to doing more to protect the rights of homeless persons. Where is the action to follow the words?”

Ms. de Albuquerque visited the U.S. in February and March 2011, and was struck by the “extraordinary lengths” homeless persons had to go to just to remove bodily wastes.  During a visit to the Safe Ground tent community near Sacramento, California, she met a man who called himself the community’s “sanitation technician.”  The man, “Tim,” engineered a sanitation system consisting of a seat overtop a two-layered plastic bag.  Every week, Tim collects bags of human waste, weighing anywhere from 130 to 230 pounds, and hauls them on his bicycle several miles to a public restroom.  When a toilet becomes available, he empties the contents of the bags.  Following the disposal, he secures the dirty bags in a clean one, which he then places in the garbage, before washing his hands with water and lemon.

He said the job is difficult, but that he does it for the community — especially the women.

Ms. de Albuquerque’s report states: “The United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, must ensure that everyone [has access] to sanitation which is safe, hygienic, secure […] and which provides privacy and ensures dignity. An immediate, interim solution is to ensure access to restroom facilities in public places, including during the night. The long-term solution to homelessness must be to ensure adequate housing.”

In June 2010, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness adopted its first-ever comprehensive plan to end homelessness, including a section promoting constructive alternatives to criminalization. However, the criminalization of homelessness by communities persists, and to date, the Justice Department and other agencies have done little to convey the unconstitutionality of these practices to local policymakers.

“This adds to a growing record of both domestic and international law stating that homeless persons cannot be criminalized for basic life-sustaining acts when the community provides no legal alternative,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the Law Center.  “But ultimately, we must remedy this situation because we, as Americans, believe that no person deserves to be treated this way.”

The Rapporteur’s Report is available at:

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/18session/A-HRC-18-33-Add4_en.pdf .

It will be officially presented to the Human Rights Council at their session next month.

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The National Law Center on Homelessness  Poverty’s mission is to prevent and end homelessness by serving as the legal arm of the nationwide movement.


Eric Tars
Human Rights Program Director/
Children & Youth Staff Attorney
National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
1411 K St., N.W.
Suite 1400
Washington, D.C. 20005
Home office: (215) 392-0298 (primary)
Main office: (202)638-2535
Fax: (202) 628-2737
Email: etars@…
www.nlchp.org
wiki.nlchp.org

 

Under the Bridge

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Every Tuesday afternoon David Gerber, publisher and editor of the newspaper,  meets with some of Eugene’s homeless community, including vendors, under the Washington-Jefferson Bridge to play basketball, chess and hold writing workshops. Here Jason and “Homeless” are writing down their stories, which they will submit for publication in the newspaper, while others play basketball, chess or simply come by to hang with friends.

 

Vagabond Vlog 4, August 2011

Friday, August 12th, 2011

The Oregon Vagabond August 2011, Volume 2 – Issue 8

Monday, August 1st, 2011

 

August’s issue is hot off the press! In the August 2011 issue of The Oregon Vagabond, we have published stories by 15 local writers, who attend our writing workshops Tuesday afternoons at Washington-Jefferson Park under the bridge. Photography in this issue is by L.E. Erickson and James Beason (Lane Community College journalism intern).

Welcome to our newest advertisers: Bijou Art Cinemas, Organically Grown Company and The City of Eugene Equity and Human Rights Center. Our Contributors Club membership continues to grow – thank you to those who joined this past month! A special thank you to the Human Rights Commission for awarding us a grant and endorsing our work with the homeless community and McKenzie Mist for the gift of water to hydrate those experiencing homelessness.

The Oregon Vagabond is distributed by our homeless vendors on the streets of Eugene by the Farmers Market and Saturday Market. Other downtown locations include near The Kiva grocery store, across the street from Cafe Zenon and the U of O campus.