Policies to Protect Homeless People from Discrimination

Homeless Bill of Rights

A homeless bill of rights that explicitly protects homeless people from pervasive forms of discrimination is a powerful legal tool rapidly gaining in popularity across the nation. In addition to safeguarding homeless persons’ existing civil rights, a homeless bill of rights offers the opportunity to secure powerful new rights necessary to permanently end homelessness, such as a right to housing. 

Homeless People as Protected Class
Homeless people would be deemed members of a protected class and would be entitled to all of the rights and protections under such a designation. 
Cleaning Public Places
Some municipalities target persons experiencing homelessness by conducting sweeps of areas where homeless individuals sleep, rest, and store belongings. During sweeps, police or city workers may confiscate and destroy belongings in an attempt to “clean up” an area. A policy that establishes procedures for disposing of property discovered during the cleaning of public spaces can ensure that the owners are afforded due process of law and provided with support by appropriate service provider agencies. For further information, please see the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s model policy for cleaning public spaces.

Police Interactions with Homeless People
A policy governing police interactions with homeless people can ensure that law enforcement personnel understand and are sensitive to the needs and rights of those experiencing homelessness. Such a policy should recognize that all persons, including people experiencing homelessness, have the right to be peacefully in any public place so long as their activities are lawful. This can also explicitly affirm that homelessness is not a crime. For further information, please see the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s sample model policy and police order.