UN committee calls on the US to decriminalize homelessness

The United Nations.

The United Nations. Photo courtesy of Mathias Reding // Unsplash.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is calling on the United States to take action against an increasing number of laws criminalizing homelessness. 

In the past year, legislators across the United States have enacted laws discriminating against people experiencing homelessness. These laws include regulations restricting people from sitting or resting in public spaces and panhandling. In Tennessee, lawmakers recently made it a felony to camp overnight on local public property, like parks and under overpasses. 

To curtail laws criminalizing homelessness, the U.N. committee suggests the federal government consider withdrawing funding from states that criminalize homelessness. It also  encourages the U.S. government to redirect funds from police response programs to support housing and shelter options for homeless people. 

“The U.N. was clear today: criminalizing homelessness is racially discriminatory, violates the human rights obligations we have to our citizens, and it needs to end, now,” said Eric Tars, the legal director at the National Homelessness Law Center. 

The D.C. Council recently passed a law adding homelessness as a protected class under the Human Rights Act, which would ban discrimination in the workplace, educational institutions and businesses. 
While the UN committee praised broader efforts to end and prevent homelessness in the United States, including the federal plan “Home, Together,” it still said the government must do more to address homelessness, according to the statement. 

Issues |Criminalization of Homelessness

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