I wanted to share a domestic human rights breakthrough from our work with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), a federal agency that includes members from a wide number of other federal agencies, including DOJ, HUD, HHS, ED, Labor, etc.
Starting on Dec. 10 (Human Rights Day), the USICH launched an ongoing blog series titled “I Believe in Human Rights” which invited key personnel from their member agencies, domestic and foreign NGOs, and formerly homeless persons, to share blogs on their belief in human rights. They also dedicated their December newsletter to the issue.
All of these resources are collected on their Human Rights page. (That’s right, a domestic federal agency has a page dedicated to human rights.)
Among the highlights are a blog by Maha Jweied, Senior Counsel at the DOJ’s Access to Justice Initiative, in which she calls for a right to counsel for homeless people, and addresses criminalization of homelessness as a potential violation of our human rights treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Convention Against Torture.
And a really creative article by the USICH addressing several human rights in addition to housing that may be violated for persons experiencing homelessness which demonstrates the seriousness and depth to which they are applying the human rights framework.
Also, great blogs by yours truly highlighting the progress and challenges in addressing homelessness as a human rights issue, which explicitly links into the broader Human Rights at Home Campaign, and by our Executive Director looking specifically at criminalization of homelessness as a human rights violation.
If you like what you see, please reinforce with them that this is a step in the right direction and give them some credit on their social media sites: Twitter (@USICHgov) and Facebook by using #RightsEndHomelessness.
All of this represents an unprecedented effort coming from within our federal government to change the baseline of our policy dialogue to one that includes human rights. It’s a major victory for us to have a broad number of agencies now agreeing in writing that human rights are the relevant standards we should be applying, but now it’s up to us to hold them accountable to those standards in our advocacy. Let’s make 2014 the year for Human Rights at Home.
-Eric Tars, Director of Human Rights and Children’s Rights Programs