Bill of Rights for the Homeless
Proposed Bill of Rights for the Homeless
Introduced by: International Freedom Coalition
Developed by: Sapphire Jule King, MAEd
(See original November 26, 2010 post)
Section 1: Summary
Establishes the Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act which designates “housing status” as a prohibited ground of discrimination, abuse, and harassment.
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL
This bill would develop a consumer-centered system of human rights-based principles and practices to ensure that educational, employment, and service programs are free from either conscious or inadvertent bias, discrimination, abuse, and harassment often levied against homeless individuals and families at shelters, meal sites, public and private agencies, on the street, and in any other places where homeless individuals may be found.
Section 2: Rights of homeless individuals, clients, or residents.
No person’s rights, privileges, or access to public or private services may be denied or abridged solely because he or she is homeless. Such a person shall be granted the same rights and privileges as any other citizen of this State. These rights include but are not limited to the following:
1. The right to receive safe, appropriate, courteous, and high quality care, shelter, and services in a timely manner with consideration, dignity, respect, and equality by all.
2. The right to access emergency medical health services in any health care facility doing business in this State in a timely manner with consideration, dignity, respect, and equality by all.
3. The right to receive public services or accommodations offered to any other citizen of this State in accordance with established eligibility guidelines for those services.
4. The right to be free from:
- (i) discrimination on the basis of race or color, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, country of ancestral origin, housing status or perceived housing status by public and private entities, shelters, service providers and their staff or other clients or residents; and
- (ii) threats or coercion; mental, emotional, verbal, or physical abuse; harassment, intimidation or bullying; stalking or cyberstalking; physical punishment; damage to or theft of property; or exploitation of any kind by public and private entities, shelters, service providers and their staff, or other clients or residents.
5. As a condition to receive services or shelter, the right to refuse being categorized or labeled with an addiction, mental illness, disability, or other health-related issues which occurred in the person’s past but is inaccurate or inappropriate for describing his or her present emotional, mental, or physical health; and not to be subjected to discrimination, reprisal, or denial of shelter or services for doing so.
6. The right to accept or refuse care and services and to be informed of the consequences of that action.
7. Any person denied products or services shall be offered the opportunity to be given the reason for such denial in writing within a reasonable period of time.
8. The right to not be coerced or penalized in any way for not taking any medication or for not undergoing any medical treatment that has not been authorized by a qualified physician.
9. The right to access his or her own medications and appropriate medical treatment.
10. The right to have access to his or her personal and clinical records.
11. The right to employment and training opportunities in accordance with his or her interests and abilities.
12. The right to vote, which may not be denied solely based upon the person’s housing status, notwithstanding any provision of the Election Code.
13. The right to live in any community in this State in which he or she can afford to live.
14. The right to choose a type of living arrangements in accordance with local regulations without harassment or interference from any other citizen or from any public or private entity.
15. The right of visitation with family members, friends, clergy, and professional or public consultants notwithstanding the person’s living arrangements, as long as the visitation does not interfere with the smooth operation of the person’s place of residence.
16. The right to manage his or her own personal finances notwithstanding his or her living arrangements, unless (i) the person voluntarily signs a written agreement, sworn to and witnessed before a notary public, authorizing an individual or agency to manage his or her finances, (ii) the person resides in a shelter for homeless persons and has enrolled in a savings program designed to provide rent money upon the person’s departure from the shelter, or (iii) the person has been ruled or adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to be incompetent to manage his or her financial affairs.
17. In the case of a group living arrangement or long-term care facility, the right to receive and sign any check, voucher, or other warrant or legal tender issued in his or her name before the moneys may be expended by the person’s landlord or a public or private agency, unless the person waives the right in a writing sworn to before a notary public. If the person is unable to sign his or her name, the person may make his or her signature with an “X” that is witnessed by 2 other persons not employed or directly associated with the landlord or agency, preferably a relative or guardian of the person or someone designated by the person beforehand.
18. The right to have his or her personal and clinical records treated and maintained in a confidential manner and to be advised by the agency of its policies and procedures regarding disclosure of personal and clinical records. Homeless shelters shall obtain a voluntary written release from a homeless person prior to disclosing any personal information regarding the homeless person, including, but not limited to, name, social security number, and birth date, except in aggregate form. The right to confidentiality of records includes the dissemination of materials to other agencies, either private or public, for any experimental research or investigational activities. The homeless person shall be given the option of whether to release records via informed consent, based on guidelines from the Office of Human Research Protections, United States Department of Health and Human Services.
19. A person shall not be required to waive these rights, via a release of information, in exchange for the goods or services of the provider.
20. Clients’ or residents’ rights shall be conspicuously posted and a copy of these rights shall be given to any client or resident on request.
21. The right to assistance in obtaining legal representation to protect these rights.
22. The right to voice his or her grievances through a documented grievance mechanism established by the shelter, meal site, or service provider involving clients or residents, staff, and relatives or authorized representatives of clients or residents, which will insure clients’ or residents’ freedom from discrimination, abuse, exploitation, reprisal, coercion, harassment, intimidation, or bullying; to be advised on how to voice grievances; and not to be subjected to discrimination or reprisal for doing so. The grievance procedure shall include provisions for appeal.
23. The right to voice grievances regarding treatment or care that is (or fails to be) furnished, or regarding the lack of respect for the client or resident or the client’s or resident’s property by anyone who is furnishing services on behalf of a shelter, meal site, or service provider; to be advised on how to voice grievances; and not to be subjected to discrimination or reprisal for doing so. The grievance procedure shall include provisions for appeal.
24. When a person has presented to a shelter, meal site, or service provider an internal complaint alleging a violation of the rights under this chapter, the shelter, meal site, or service provider shall be required to disclose in a timely manner in writing to that client or resident the disposition of the complaint, including a description of any action taken in resolution of the complaint, provided however no other personnel information shall be disclosed to the complainant.
25. Housing status or perceived housing status shall be added as a protected class in the State’s statues regarding: Fair Employment Practices, Harassment at Institutions of Higher Education, Hotels and Public Places, and Fair Housing Practices.
Section 3: Definitions
(1) “Housing status” means (i) the type of housing in which an individual resides or (ii) the status of having or not having a fixed or regular residence, including the status of living on the streets, in a shelter, or in a temporary residence.
(2) “Homeless” means a person or persons who (i) are undomiciled, with no address or regular residence (ii) or resides in a place not designed for regular sleeping accommodation, a shelter, a residential program for victims of domestic violence or in a hotel/motel on a temporary basis.
(3) “Abuse” means (i) any assault as defined in the state’s general laws; (ii) any conduct which harms or is likely to physically harm the client or resident except where the conduct is a part of the care and treatment, and in furtherance of the health and safety of the patient or resident; or (iii) intentionally engaging in a pattern of harassing conduct which causes or is likely to cause emotional or psychological harm to a client or resident, including but not limited to, ridiculing or demeaning a client or resident, making derogatory or abrasive remarks to a client or resident, cursing directed towards a client or resident, or threatening to inflict physical or emotional harm on a client or resident.
(4) “Stalking” means harassing a client or resident or willfully, maliciously and repeatedly following a client or resident with the intent to place that client or resident in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
(5) “Cyberstalking” means transmitting any communication by computer to any client or resident or causing any client or resident to be contacted for the sole purpose of harassing that client or resident or his or her family.
(6) “Harassing” or “Harassment, intimidation or bullying” means following a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific client or resident with the intent to seriously alarm, annoy, or bother the client or resident, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause (i) a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, be in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person, or be in reasonable fear of damage to his or her property; or (ii) is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive environment for a client or resident.
(7) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “course of conduct.”