Homeless Advocates Host Multi-Site Nationwide Housing Rights Forum
Conference builds the movement for the human right to housing in the United States
Press Type: Press Release Associated Program: Human Rights
Chicago; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; New Orleans; and Washington, DC
November 7, 2007 - On November 5, over 200 advocates gathered in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, New Orleans, and Washington, DC for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty's (NLCHP) annual National Forum on the Human Right to Housing. The conference connected housing and human rights advocates, activists, lawyers, and service providers in each city via video-conference to discuss housing rights violations and the strategies employed by participants to advocate on behalf of homeless and poor Americans.
"Residents of public housing in New Orleans told how they are fighting bulldozers coming to destroy their homes later this month," said Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of NLCHP. "But at each of the other locations, people understood that whether it's this month or next year, their homes will be under threat too, unless we shift the conversation in this country to one about guaranteeing the right to housing."
Similar themes resonated throughout the day. David Prince, of Mossville Environmental Action Now in Louisiana, told of the 14 chemical plants surrounding his community which have led to skyrocketing cancer rates and unsafe housing. Participants in Los Angeles added their own experiences regarding the critical shortage of affordable housing in southern California. This was echoed in Minneapolis, where local activist Joshua Lang of St. Stephens Human Services spoke about recent local ordinances criminalizing homelessness.
"The shortage of affordable housing, environmental racism, and the criminalization of homelessness are all symptoms of a fundamental lack of respect for the rights and needs of poor and minority persons in our country," said Eric Tars, Human Rights Staff Attorney at NLCHP. "But today we saw that people everywhere have a new vision, grounded in the American belief of equal opportunity, that guarantees us all our basic human rights."
Following on the success of the Forum, participants at each location will use the lessons they learned to continue to work together for housing as a human right. Follow-up activities include:
According to a recent poll, more than half of Americans said they strongly believe housing is a human right, and two-thirds believe the government needs to expand programs in order to provide for this right. However, approximately 3.5 million Americans still experience homelessness each year, and millions more are at risk.
- On November 13, each city will hold a solidarity rally to oppose the imminent destruction of 3,000 units of public housing in New Orleans. These units were mostly undamaged by the Hurricane, but are now falling victim to development strategies that do not value the residents of public housing, most of whom were women and children.
- In Los Angeles, advocates will continue their work to integrate the human right to housing into public planning documents like the L.A. Housing Element, as they did in the past with the City's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.
- Advocates in Minneapolis are using human rights strategies to rescind a "lurking" ordinance, which allows police to arrest homeless persons even if they are not engaged in any criminal activity.
- The Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs in Chicago will continue its campaign to cut poverty in Illinois in half by 2015 in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals.
- In DC, NLCHP will continue to coordinate the national movement. It will also hold the US accountable for racial discrimination in housing and homelessness before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) when it reviews the US in February 2008.
More information about the Forum is available at http://www.nlchp.org/National_Forum.cfm, or contact Etars@nlchp.org.
NLCHP is the only national legal advocacy organization solely dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness. Through impact litigation, policy advocacy, and public education the organization addresses the root causes of homelessness at the local, state, and national levels.
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