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There is a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of the rights of the homeless people. There are scores of homeless people all over the world. They either live on the streets, in temporary shelters, or spend the nights in parks. They have no shelter and are therefore exposed to rain, cold, and attacks from hate criminals. Children who are homeless mostly do not attend school.
There are several stakeholders in the issue of homelessness. These include the law enforcers, the human rights activists, and the members of the public. These groups have varying opinions about the issue of the homeless.
The laws in the society do not accommodate the homeless as they see being homeless as illegal. Homelessness has been criminalized and there are laws forbidding the homeless from loitering, begging for food or money or sitting and sleeping in public places. Herz, Haglar and National Law Centre on Homelessness and Poverty (14) explore various laws that are against the homeless people in the United States.
They say these laws should be condemned because they infringe on the rights of the homeless, who are rightful citizens of that country. There are ordinances forbidding people from sleeping and loitering in all public places and against them being fed by sympathetic members of the public. This is extremely inhuman.
The law enforcers ensure that the homeless are flushed out of the streets and parks. In Florida and Las Vegas the members of the public are not allowed to feed the homeless people in the parks. The law enforcers see the homeless as destroying the public image. In Seattle, there are laws forbidding the homeless from use of sidewalks and resting in public places as they consider those acts as trespassing. However, some cities like Maryland have enforced strict penalties for people who perpetrate hate crimes against the homeless.
The rights of homeless people are not listed in any constitution. Governments illegalize the existence of homeless people on the streets as they say that they disrupt normal business. Sometimes their temporary homes are destroyed with bulldozers in order to force them out of the streets.
The book titled International Perspectives on Homelessness focuses on how different governments around the world view the issue of homelessness. Most of the countries discriminate against these people. The book also gives the numbers and demographic information about the homeless.
The factors that lead to homelessness include domestic violence, lack of proper heath care, mental instability, and drug abuse among others. Governments need to come up with proper housing policies in order to cater for the needs of the rising number of homeless people. Forcing them to leave the streets will not solve the problem since these people have no homes to go back to.
The authorities have the responsibility of giving home to the homeless, according to the United States Housing Act. They should particularly help the elderly, handicapped, and people with children. These people with priority needs should also not be intentionally homeless in order for the authorities to help them.
In Japan the authorities view the homeless as a bother to the public. To deal with this problem, they flush them out of public places by initiating pretentious programmes to improve and revamp the environment. The homeless have no rights. There is a lot of bureaucracy involved in seeking financial help for housing and this discourages the homeless (Polakow and Guillean 241).
Another stakeholder in this matter is the human rights activists. Human rights activists blame the hate crimes perpetrated against the homeless to the laws that criminalize homelessness. They are against discrimination and mistreatment of the homeless because they are human beings who are entitled to human rights.
There are international treaties that protect human rights. These include the Convention on the Rights off the Child, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Having a safe and secure home is a basic human right. Being homeless denies a person very many other rights including the right to vote, privacy, education, security, good living standards, health, freedom of movement, among others. Therefore, being homeless is not just lacking a house. Many of their human rights are violated. These people deserve protection (human rights) like all the other people who have homes.
The members of the public are also stakeholders in the problem of homelessness. The homeless people have no source of income. Most of the time, they move around the city begging from passersby, shops, and hotels. Owners of such premises feel that they are a nuisance to them and their customers and therefore affect their business negatively. The customers get scared when they find people sleeping outside the shops or restaurants.
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Therefore, these people are against the homeless being on the streets. Most laws forbid loitering and sleeping in public places and the homeless are often arrested for violating them. These members of the public are in full support of these laws. However, there are other members of the public who are very sympathetic towards these people and often feed them in parks, offer them shelter, and give them other necessities.
According to Dugan (18) different members of the public have varying attitudes towards the homeless. For instance, the people from rural areas tend to be more generous to them than those from urban areas. Also the younger people and females will be more compassionate towards the homeless. Ironically, people in the lower social class are more helpful than the rich who have enough resources to help.
There are some people who gravely hate homeless people. Therefore, they perpetrate acts of violence against them (Wachholz 141). According to a report by the National Council for the Homeless, homeless people are not safe on the streets and many times they become hate crimes victims.
They sometimes end up injured or dead. Some of the hate crimes perpetrated against them include beatings, stabbing, rape, setting them on fire, among others. These crimes are encouraged by laws that are against the begging and loitering of the homeless.
Therefore, the people see the homeless as a nuisance that they should get rid of. This report also reveals that most perpetrators of the crimes are young men who are either doing it for fun or are religiously, racially, and ethnically motivated. It also documents the number of crimes perpetrated against the homeless people in America. There are also cases of police harassing them by waking them up as they sleep in the parks or on the streets and beating them up or arresting them.
However, the policemen say that they only harass the homeless when they disturb the other members of the public begging forcefully or drinking and causing chaos. Some videos and web-based games encourage the youth to get involved in hate crimes against the homeless. These videos depict the homeless as worthless people who should be attacked and killed so that they can go away from the midst of other people (National Council for the Homeless 12).
According to the New York Times (10) a lot of hate crimes against the homeless were perpetrated in the United States in 2009 with 433 cases leading to death. California and Florida had the highest number of deaths. Most perpetrators of the crimes were young men from the age of 12 years.
From the above discussion, it is evident that the issue of the rights of the homeless is very controversial. Every stakeholder has varying notions and attitudes towards this delicate matter. The human rights activists believe that these people are citizens with all the rights that should be accorded to human beings.
On the other hand, the government wants to preserve their public image and view these people as a nuisance. Lastly, some members of the public think that the homeless should not be in their midst because they cause trouble and disrupt their businesses. However, other members of the public are sympathetic towards these people and go out of their way to offer assistance to them. Therefore, the issue of homelessness is very complex and it is not possible to come to a general conclusion about how people feel about it.
Dugan, Joni, Mari. Assessing Public Opinion toward Homelessness in the United States. New York: Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.
Herz, Rick., Hagler, Tamar., and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (U.S.). No Homeless People Allowed: A Report on Anti-Homeless Laws, Litigation and Alternatives in 49 United States Cities. USA: DIANE Publishing, 1994. Print.
National Council for the Homeless. “Hate Crimes Against The Homeless: America’s Growing Tide of Violence.” National Council for the Homeless, 2010. 27 Oct. 2011. <http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/hatecrimes/hatecrimes2009.pdf>
New York Times. “Killings of Homeless Rise to Highest Level in a Decade.” nytimes, August 18, 2010. 27 Oct. 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/19/us/19homeless.html
Polakow, Valerie., and Guillean Cindy. International Perspectives on Homelessness. USA. : Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001. Print.
Wachholz, Sandra. Hate crimes against the Homeless: Warning-Out New England Style. Journal Of Sociology And Social Welfare, Volume XXXII, Number 4. December 2005.