Federal, state, and local laws that prohibit begging, camping, loitering, and lying down or sitting in public are specifically designed to criminalize homelessness. And that is wrong. This was the sentiment expressed on September 2nd by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The Committee was reviewing the US compliance to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a treaty the US ratified in 1994. The CERD cited laws prohibiting begging, camping, loitering, and lying in public as “the criminalization of homelessness,”and noted that persons of color and marginalization disproportionately comprise this demographic. The United States has a large homeless population, and numerous federal, state, and local laws that specifically target this population.
In 2017 the US will need to submit a new report to the CERD outlining how implementations of the original provisions of the Treaty are continuing to be instituted, but also how the new findings and suggestions are being met. The CERD is pushing for a revocation of laws targeting these at-risk populations, but is also looking to see how the federal government is focusing on alternatives such as housing, training, mental health support, and community involvement.
Please join BOSS in our ongoing efforts to fight ordinances, laws, and practices that threaten the civil right of people on the streets! To get involved, contact Gwen at (510) 649-1930 to learn more about the BOSS Community Organizing Team (COT).