On July 23, the Human Rights Alliance held a workshop to review the possibility of making headway toward human rights in America. The group feels that housing and homelessness constitute the number one human rights issues across all fifty states.
Eric Tars from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty gave some context to this conversation. “Many people are coming to a human rights framework, but this framework is not new,” he said. Tars highlighted that, as of late, presidential candidates have been using the phrase “housing is a human right.”
“We have broken through to the mainstream political scene,” he said.
Tars proposed that the District of Columbia use a human rights report card. “It’s not something that is foreign — it’s as American as apple pie.”
The human rights report uses seven areas of study to grade each region: legal security of tenure, availability, habitability, affordability, accessibility, services and infrastructure, location, and cultural adequacy. Tars emphasized that a human right to housing doesn’t mean a white picket fence for every American, but the conditions must allow every person to enjoy the right.
Sekethia, a person with lived experience of homelessness, focused on her journey through housing instability. “My focus has to be: ‘He didn’t bring me this far to leave me,’” she said. “You have to fight here to get into these programs … We’re criminalized.”
She emphasized the importance of inspiring and educating the next generations so as not to repeat the cycle of poverty.