The Law Center and its local allies have achieved an important milestone on behalf of homeless campers in Sacramento.
For well over a year, campers have been forced to transport bags full of waste on a bicycle to a public restroom miles away from their tent city. But in an unprecedented letter to Mayor Kevin Johnson, the United Nations has delivered a clear message: by not providing sanitation and safe drinking water, the city is violating the human rights of homeless persons.
The letter, sent by the UN special rapporteur on clean water and sanitation, cites targeted closings of public restrooms, decommissioning of water fountains, and a lack of other clean water sources as blatant violations.
“The United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, must ensure that everyone [has access] to sanitation which is safe, hygienic, and secure […] and which provides privacy and ensures dignity,” Albuquerque wrote.
She notes that the short-term solution is to ensure access to clean restrooms and drinking water, including during the night, but that ensuring adequate housing for homeless persons must be the long-term goal.
This story has been widely covered in the media. On February 8, Law Center Human Rights Director Eric Tars discussed the situation on KCRW’s “Which Way, LA?” with Warren Olney. You can listen to that interview at the top of the page.
We’re excited by what all of this demonstrates: the tremendous moral force of human rights arguments. Moving forward, we’re going to continue working with our local partners to hold Sacramento accountable to U.S. treaty obligations and take this advocacy model to other parts of the country.
– Eric Tars, Human Rights & Children and Youth Program Director