National Forum on the Human Right to Housing

The National Forum on the Human Right to Housing, to be held June 7-8 at the Thurgood Marshall Center in Washington, D.C., couldn’t come at a better time.

There’s an obvious disconnect between Washington rhetoric and the American story.  As Congress debates tax breaks for its wealthiest constituents and major cuts to the social safety net, more than 44 million homeless and poor people are waiting to learn their fate.  That’s 14 out of every 100 Americans.  Will they have a roof over the heads?  Food to feed their children?

With the gap between rich and poor growing exponentially, it’s only common sense for our policies to reflect the increasing need.  But there’s something lost in all of this, an inconvenient truth policymakers have been ignoring for decades: housing is a human right.

The United States is obligated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international agreements, to ensure its every citizen has access to adequate housing and a basic standard of healthy living.  And across the country, Americans agree.  Recent polling shows that 75 percent believe housing is a human right.

At the National Forum on the Human Right to Housing, the Law Center will bring together homeless and poor people, federal policymakers, grassroots advocates, service providers, lawyers, journalists, and academics from across the country to share information and work collaboratively to reframe the public debate about homelessness, poverty, and access to justice.

This year’s speakers are leading experts on these issues. Here’s  a small sample:

  • Carol Anderson, Assoc. Professor of African American Studies, Emory University, and author of Eyes Off the Prize
  • Peter Edelman, Professor of Law and Director of the Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy, Georgetown University School of Law
  • Barbara Ehrenreich, best-selling author of Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
  • Pam Fessler, poverty & philanthropy correspondent, National Public Radio
  • Bryan Greene, General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing at HUD
  • Jonathan Harwitz, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy & Programs at HUD
  • Gail Laster, Deputy Chief Counsel for the House Financial Services Committee
  • Barbara Poppe, Executive Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness

Click here for a full schedule of events.

The Forum comes on the heels of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s recent review of U.S. human rights policy.  In its official response to the Council’s recommendations, the federal government acknowledged for the first time in history that homelessness implicates its human rights obligations.

Now is the time to mobilize communities across the country to fight for the dignity and basic quality of life of every American.  The Forum will include workshops on applying the human rights framework to advocacy on issues like: preventing homelessness, criminalization, children’s education, state and local budgets, domestic violence, and veteran homelessness.

Forum participants will even receive training on how to communicate with legislators on these issues, and have the opportunity to meet with their elected representatives.

We hope you’ll join us on June 7-8 at the Thurgood Marshall Center in Washington, D.C.  The Forum is a chance for the U.S. human rights movement to chart a course for the future – one, we hope, in which the American Dream more closely reflects our daily reality.

For more information, click here. Early registration is discounted, but ends May 15, so act fast!

-Andy Beres, Grant Writer & Communications Assistant

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One Response to National Forum on the Human Right to Housing

  1. I hate I missed this!

    In May, I completed a 7-month study where I lived as a person experiencing homelessness, I discovered that shelter staff were harassing and abusing residents. Outside of the shelter system, citizens have all forms of legal protections from such maltreatment including School Bullying laws, Workplace Violence Protection laws, Nursing Home Patient’s Bill of Rights, Domestic Violence Laws, and the almighty Civil Rights Act.

    However, these protections did not apply within the shelter system. I also discovered that advocacy groups and elected officials did not address the maltreatment. So, I wrote and am advocating for a Bill of Rights for the Homeless to mandate treatment based on the human rights principles of dignity and respect–the same principles mandated in the above mentioned laws.

    This is an opportunity for us all to come together and MAKE our voices heard as one united demand that cannot be ignored. In the US alone, there are more than 7.5 million people currently or at-risk of experiencing homelessness.

    Sign and share the Bill of Rights at:

    Our goal is to have at least 50,000 signatures by January 1, 2012 to convince established advocacy and lobbying groups to introduce the Bill in the respective legislatures.

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