Homeless Bill Of Rights

,Below, I have posted the Homeless Bill of Rights that was submitted to the state of California legislature – it died in committee on a technicality just last year.  Feel free to use this as a template for your own homeless bill of rights to present to your local or state government.

This act shall be known and may be cited as the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act.

SEC. 2.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(a) In the State of California, there has been a long history of discriminatory laws and ordinances that have disproportionately affected people with low incomes and who are without homes, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(1) Jim Crow laws: After the Civil War, many states, especially in the south, passed laws denying African Americans basic human rights. In California, these laws also targeted Chinese immigrants. In San Francisco, Chinese residents were forced to live in one area of the city. The same segregation laws also prohibited interracial marriage between Chinese and non-Chinese persons.
(2) Ugly laws: In 1867, San Francisco was the first city in the country to pass a law making it illegal for people with “unsightly or disgusting” disabilities to appear in public. In many cities, these laws persisted until the 1970s.
(3) Anti-Okie laws: In 1937, California passed an Anti-Okie law that criminalized “bringing or assisting in bringing” extremely poor people into the state. The United States Supreme Court struck down the law in 1941, when it declared that these laws are in violation of the commerce clause, and therefore unconstitutional.
(4) Sundown town ordinances: Town policies and real estate covenants were aimed at preventing minorities, homeless persons, and other persons considered to be socially undesirable from remaining within city limits after sunset. Thousands of these towns existed prior to the federal Civil Rights Act of 1968, which made these ordinances and covenants illegal.
(5) Vagrancy laws: Vagrancy laws have been held to be discriminatory on their face because they criminalize a person’s status rather than a behavior. Nevertheless, these laws existed in California until the Legislature revised them in 1961.
(b) Act of living ordinances, often known as “quality of life ordinances” and other similar ordinances, are the modern reincarnations of laws of this kind. They are designed to force homeless people to flee local jurisdictions. These local ordinances result in de facto segregation as homeless people are forced out of specific jurisdictions or out of specific neighborhoods within jurisdictions. These practices tend to condemn large groups of inhabitants to dwell in segregated districts or under depressed living conditions that result in crowded, unsanitary, substandard, and unhealthful accommodations. Furthermore, these policies result in criminalization of homeless persons who do not choose, or are unable, to migrate.
(c) Today, in the state, many people are denied the following:
(1) Housing due to their status of being homeless, living in a shelter, a vehicle, the street, or the public domain.
(2) Employment due to their current status of being homeless or living in a shelter or a vehicle on the street.
(3) Housing and employment as a result of not having a fixed or residential mailing address or having a post office box as a mailing address.
(4) Equal protection of the laws and due process by law enforcement and prosecuting agencies.
(5) The ability to make certain purchases or enter certain contests as a result of not having a fixed or residential mailing address or having a post office box as a mailing address.
(6) Access to safe, clean restrooms, water, and hygienic supplies necessary to maintain health, safety, and dignity, especially with the proliferation of closures of public restrooms.
(d) Homeless persons are unfairly targeted by law enforcement, often resulting in the violation of homeless persons’ constitutional rights. Lacking the resources necessary to obtain adequate legal representation, homeless persons are often denied relief or damages through the courts.
(e) Homeless persons rarely have access to shelters, and when shelter is available, its conditions can be so poor as to jeopardize their health and physical and mental safety.
(f) Homeless persons are often forced to separate from loved ones, give up their personal property, abandon pets, and make other inhumane choices in order to access even minimal shelter.
(g) Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, and queer individuals often are forced to accept inappropriate or unsafe accommodations to access publicly funded emergency shelters.
(h) Children in homeless families are denied the ability to continue receiving education in their preferred school if their family’s shelter lies outside the boundaries of their former district.
(i) At the present time, many persons have been rendered homeless as a result of a deep and prolonged economic recession, a severe shortage of safe and affordable housing, a failed mental health system, and a shrinking social safety net.
(j) Section 1 of Article I of the California Constitution provides that
“[a]ll people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”
(k) Subdivision (a) of Section 7 of Article I of the California Constitution provides, in part, that “[a] person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws… .”
(l) Concordant with this fundamental belief, a person should not be subject to discrimination based on his or her housing status, income level, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, or immigration status. Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to protect the rights of all Californians, regardless of their housing status, and to ameliorate the adverse effects of homelessness on people who have no home and on our communities.
(m) It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would require all state agencies to use the same definition for “homeless persons or people” as follows:
(1) “Homeless” means those individuals or families who lack or are perceived to lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, or who have a primary nighttime residence in a shelter, on the street, in a vehicle, in an enclosure or structure that is not authorized or fit for human habitation.
(2) “Homeless” also means a person whose only residence is a residential hotel or who is residing anywhere without tenancy rights, and families with children staying in a residential hotel whether or not they have tenancy rights.
(n) It is the intent of the Legislature that publicly funded social and health care services be offered in a sufficient quantity to meet the population’s needs, without barriers, including geographical barriers, such as making locations inconvenient or creating screen-out barriers, or prohibiting access due to a person’s inability to provide identification or criminal justice history, or disability, in order that persons are reasonably able to reach and use that service.

SEC. 3.

 Part 2.2 (commencing with Section 53.1) is added to Division 1 of the Civil Code, to read:

For purposes of this part, the following definitions shall apply:

SEC. 5.SEC. 4.

 Section 11135 of the Government Code is amended to read:


 (a) No person in the State of California shall, on the basis of race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color,housing status,  genetic information, or disability, be unlawfully denied full and equal access to the benefits of, or be unlawfully subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity that is conducted, operated, or administered by the state or by any state agency, is funded directly by the state, or receives any financial assistance from the state. Notwithstanding Section 11000, this section applies to the California State University.

(b) With respect to discrimination on the basis of disability, programs and activities subject to subdivision (a) shall meet the protections and prohibitions contained in Section 202 of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12132), and the federal rules and regulations adopted in implementation thereof, except that if the laws of this state prescribe stronger protections and prohibitions, the programs and activities subject to subdivision (a) shall be subject to the stronger protections and prohibitions.
(c) (1) As used in this section, “disability” means any mental or physical disability, as defined in Section 12926.
(2) The Legislature finds and declares that the amendments made to this act are declarative of existing law. The Legislature further finds and declares that in enacting Senate Bill 105 of the 2001–02 Regular Session (Chapter 1102 of the Statutes of 2002), it was the intention of the Legislature to apply subdivision (d) to the California State University in the same manner that subdivisions (a), (b), and (c) already applied to the California State University, notwithstanding Section 11000. In clarifying that the California State University is subject to paragraph (2) of subdivision (d), it is not the intention of the Legislature to increase the cost of developing or procuring electronic and information technology. The California State University shall, however, in determining the cost of developing or procuring electronic or information technology, consider whether technology that meets the standards applicable pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (d) will reduce the long-term cost incurred by the California State University in providing access or accommodations to future users of this technology who are persons with disabilities, as required by existing law, including this section, Title II of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 and following), et seq.),  and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. Sec. 794).
(d) (1) The Legislature finds and declares that the ability to utilize electronic or information technology is often an essential function for successful employment in the current work world.
(2) In order to improve accessibility of existing technology, and therefore increase the successful employment of individuals with disabilities, particularly blind and visually impaired and deaf and hard-of-hearing persons, state governmental entities, in developing, procuring, maintaining, or using electronic or information technology, either indirectly or through the use of state funds by other entities, shall comply with the accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. Sec. 794d), and regulations implementing that act as set forth in Part 1194 of Title 36 of the Federal Code of Regulations.
(3) Any entity that contracts with a state or local entity subject to this section for the provision of electronic or information technology or for the provision of related services shall agree to respond to, and resolve any complaint regarding accessibility of its products or services that is brought to the attention of the entity.
(e) As used in this section, “sex” and “sexual orientation” have the same meanings as those terms are defined in subdivisions (q) and (r) of Section 12926.
(f) As used in this section, “race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, or disability” includes a perception that a person has any of those characteristics or that the person is associated with a person who has, or is perceived to have, any of those characteristics.
(g) As used in this section, “genetic information” has the same definition as in paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 51 of the Civil Code.
(h) For purposes of this section, “housing status” means status as a “homeless person” as defined in Section 53.1 of the Civil Code.
 The Legislature finds and declares that the need to address discriminatory practices is a matter of statewide concern and is not a municipal affair, as that term is used in Section 5 of Article XI of the California Constitution. Therefore, this act shall apply to all cities, including charter cities.
The provisions of this act are severable. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.
If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.

About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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