Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

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

 

The Oregon Vagabond in the News – The Register-Guard

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011 – Diane Dietz reports on street newspapers on the front page of the business section (D) in The Register-Guard: Papers provide jobs and a voice – Homeless vendors and writers gain from a growing trend:

“A new form of hand-to-mouth economics has emerged in Eugene during the past 1½ years with the development of the Oregon Vagabond street newspaper.

The paper is the latest manifestation of a two-decade old national street newspaper movement devoted to helping urban homeless people earn a little money and eventually find a way off of the streets.

Homeless people write the stories. Homeless vendors buy the papers from the publishers — generally for 25 cents apiece — and sell them on the streets for $1, plus any tips they earn. The 31 street papers nationally are seen as an antidote to motivation-sapping handouts as well as to the isolating practices of begging or panhandling.

“It was a response to the rise of modern day homelessness in urban environments throughout the United States,” said Israel Bayer, director at Street Roots, the Portland street paper that began in 1999.

The content in the papers varies. Some focus on stories from the streets, others dig into issues related to poverty and others have an entertainment bent for maximum saleability.

Celebrities often contribute. Each year, for example, a Portland Trail Blazer offers himself for a page-one story in Street Roots.

The street papers have developed a surprisingly sophisticated infrastructure, including a trade group, the North American Street Newspaper Association, and an annual convention — this year in October in Nashville.

Like mainstream newspapers, the street newspapers share their articles for publication through a news service, the 9-year-old international Street News Service. In addition, the Reuters News wire service donates content to the street papers….”

Click here to read Dietz’s full article with photos by Paul Carter, an in-depth report in The Register-Guard on street newspapers and The Oregon Vagabond.