Rhode Island passes “Homeless Bill of Rights”

Bucking a national trend to criminalize homelessness, Rhode Island has enacted a “Homeless Bill of Rights” according to a report in The Huffington Post.

Rhode Island’s governor is expected to sign into law the first “Homeless Bill of Rights” in the United States as early as next week, formally banning discrimination against homeless people and affirming their equal access to jobs, housing and services.

The legislation, which won final approval by the state Senate on Wednesday, bucks a national trend among municipalities toward outlawing behaviors associated with homelessness such as eating, sleeping and panhandling in public spaces.

Among other steps, the Rhode Island law would guarantee homeless people the right to use public sidewalks, parks and transportation as well as public buildings, like anyone else “without discrimination on the basis of his or her housing status.”

Roughly 643,000 people are homeless on any given night in the United States, experts say.

“It’s important as a standalone piece of legislation but also as it’s juxtaposed with other communities that are in the process of criminalizing homelessness,” said Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

“This just affirms the rights and existence of the unhoused in America.”

Cities including Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Louis recently passed ordinances targeting the homeless or have stepped up enforcement of existing regulations

Would you or your church advocate for this type of law in your state? Should General Convention speak to it?

Category : The Lead

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2 Comments
  1. Lois Keen

    I would certainly advocate for such a law, Ann. And as many Episcopal churches across the country are part of the Ecclesia street church network of ministries, first conceived and founded as an Episcopalian ministry in Massachusetts, I do indeed believe Convention should speak to it.

  2. Maplewood

    I am in full agreement. I hope our govt would be willing to fund programs to help these people, as well. Many of these folks are not capable of helping themselves, at this point in their lives.

    Kevin McGrane

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