Human Rights Day 2010: U.S. Has a Long Way to Go
U.N. Review Highlights Housing Needs
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Tomorrow, December 10, the world will observe Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The Declaration protects the full range of human rights, including the human right to housing. This year, with reports around the United States citing the overcrowding of homeless shelters in the depths of a continuing foreclosure crisis, the contrast of rights promised and rights enjoyed is greater than ever.
Recent reports indicate that the foreclosure crisis is far from over, with one in five homes either in foreclosure or threatened, on top of the millions of homes already lost. But even as this crisis worsens, many cities are faced with their own budget crises, and are cutting back essential shelter services, forcing overcrowded shelters to send families back to the streets.
"The paradox of the current crisis is that we have so many family-less homes at the same time that we have growing numbers of homeless families," said Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center). "There's no excuse for having families on the streets when there are homes standing empty."
Last month, the U.S. underwent its first ever comprehensive human rights review by the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review. A coalition of U.S. advocates led by the Law Center submitted a report to the U.N. documenting the current homelessness and housing crisis, and the U.N. review called attention to the U.S. failure to meet its obligations under the right to housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said in an official statement: "the U.N.'s Universal Periodic Review process helps to inform and influence our nation's effort to dramatically increase the amount of affordable housing, especially for those struggling to find a place to call home."
The National Security Council will be hosting an inter-agency meeting at the White House Conference Center with concerned human rights groups tomorrow morning to discuss the outcomes of the U.N. review and next steps the government needs to take in light of the recommendations from the Council. Issues from the housing crisis to internal human rights implementation mechanisms will be discussed.
"Even as HUD pledges itself to ensure the right to housing on the one hand, on the other, the President failed to include funding for the National Housing Trust Fund in this week's agreement with Congressional Republicans to extend tax cuts and provide additional economic stimulus," noted Jeremy Rosen, policy director at the Law Center.
"Despite the pledges of our country to uphold human rights, we have yet to create the basic infrastructure that would implement them here at home," said Eric Tars, human rights program director at the Law Center. "Our human rights obligations should be more than words on paper, but part of the daily operation of government."
The Law Center calls on the Administration and Congress to take three steps this Human Rights Day: