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Model Policies to Protect the Human and Civil Rights of Homeless People and to Implement the Human Right to Housing: A Menu of Options
Across the country, the civil and human rights of homeless people are being threatened by laws that criminalize their status. They are also threatened by discrimination in access to housing, jobs, and public services. They are threatened by homelessness itself, which is an affront to the human right to housing. And more broadly, the rights of people who are at risk of homelessness are threatened by the failure to implement that basic human right.
These Model Policies offer a range of approaches to protecting the rights of people who are now experiencing homelessness. They include policies to protect homeless people from discrimination in their access to public places (commonly referred to as the criminalization of homelessness) and in their access to housing, employment and services. They also include models for implementing the human right to housing for homeless people and those at risk.
According to international standards, the human right to housing consists of seven elements: (1) security of tenure, (2) availability of services, materials, and infrastructure (3) affordability, (4) accessibility, (5) habitability, (6) location, and (7) cultural adequacy. Human rights law requires that countries take progressive steps to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to housing in a non-discriminatory manner to the maximum of the country’s available resources.
Implementing the human right to housing does not require the government to build a home for each person in America or to provide free housing for all. But, it does require much more than the U.S. is doing now, and more than merely providing emergency shelter. It requires affirmative steps to ensure the seven elements of the right to housing are met. These can vary widely, from policies that remove barriers to housing to tax policy that incentivizes affordable housing development to protections against discrimination based on housing status.
The following models include practical and concrete examples of ways advocates, cities, and states have taken some steps to implement the human right to housing. While not fully ensuring the right, they represent progress toward that goal, and when recognized as part of a larger movement toward the right to housing, can help build momentum for further progress. The list is not exhaustive, and we look forward to expanding it:
Policies to Protect Homeless People From Discrimination
Policies to Increase Resources for Affordable Housing and Homeless Services
Policies to Protect Security of Tenure and Access to Housing