One of Robert Frost’s poems includes this exchange, part of a winter conversation between a farmer and his wife:
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”
“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”
To my mind, Frost’s description connotes belonging, community, a sense of place—and a place you have a right to be. And, once you’re there, you cannot be thrown out for no reason, on a moment’s notice, through no fault of your own.
In less poetic terms, these are elements of the human right to housing.
Today millions of people lack that fundamental right: a place where they have to let you in. Millions are homeless—living on the street or in shelters. Many more have lost their own homes and are doubled on with friends or relatives. Yet funding for federal housing assistance has been cuts so deeply that right now only 25 percent of Americans poor enough to qualify actually receive it. That’s why the National Housing Trust Fund is so important: It would create a dedicated source of funding to right this terrible injustice. To see how you can help, click here.
Many more millions of people who now have housing are at risk of losing it: they lack the security of home. Known as “security of tenure,” this element of the human right to housing means that you can’t be evicted without notice, for no good reason. Yet millions of renters now run that risk, when the homes they live in suffer foreclosure. The protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, federal law enacted in 2009, protects tenants, but too often violated. You can read about the law in our new report, Eviction (Without) Notice, which includes the results of our national survey and catalogs violations. To find out how you can help increase compliance, check the recommendations section of the report.
This winter, let’s reflect on the words of the poet—and take action to make home a reality for all.
- Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director