As Homelessness Crisis Continues, New Strategic Plan Condemns Criminalization, Calls for Housing as a Human Right
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2022
(December 19, 2022, Washington, DC) – The National Homelessness Law Center (Law Center) welcomes the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness’ new All In: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, issued today as the Department of Housing & Urban Development also released its annual count numbers, which at more than half a million people—recognized as an undercount—remains unacceptable in the wealthiest country in the world. The Law Center wishes to highlight the following components:
Decriminalize Homelessness: The Law Center commends The Plan for identifying the criminalization of homelessness as a key challenge in achieving its goal of a 25 percent reduction in homelessness over the next two years. Criminalization takes away resources from constructive solutions to homelessness and puts financial and criminal record barriers in the way for many unhoused persons and disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous and other people of color, LGBTQ+ persons, and persons with disabilities.
Housing is a Human Right: The Plan opens with a letter from Executive Director Jeff Olivet establishing that “USICH believes that housing should be treated as a human right,” providing both a moral and legal framework for the Plan’s accountability structures for tracking and reporting on disaggregated metrics toward American’s equitable enjoyment of the human right to housing.
“This Plan’s commitment of our federal agencies to implementing housing as a human right for all Americans echoes President Franklin Roosevelt’s call for a Second Bill of Rights, including the right to a decent home, addressing the homelessness and insecurity of the Great Depression and the threats of fascism at home and abroad,” said Eric Tars, Legal Director at the Law Center. “With homelessness and income inequality at levels not seen since the Depression, and extremist groups pushing laws to force unhoused persons into state-run encampments under threat of arrest, the Plan is crucial not only for individuals’, but our nation’s survival.”
Ending Unsheltered Homelessness: The Plan recognizes the need for an equitable response to homelessness and calls for an all-of-government effort to end unsheltered homelessness to “[p]romote alternatives to criminalization and provide incentives to state, local, and territorial governments to adopt such alternatives.” This is in line with recommendations received earlier this year from the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Centering Youth Voice: “The Law Center supports the Plan’s call to put people with lived expertise in homelessness and housing instability at the center of policymaking,” said Katie Meyer Scott, Youth Program Senior Attorney at the Law Center. “This includes recommendations to create youth advisory councils so that their voices can guide us to the solutions that will work for them.”
“Homelessness is the result of policy choices our government has made at all levels not to prioritize the affordable and supportive housing needs of its residents,” said Antonia Fasanelli, Executive Director at the Law Center. “The fact that the resources from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan limited what could have been a tsunami of homelessness to only a .3 percent increase during the pandemic shows that when we choose to prioritize keeping people housed, we can do it. Let’s keep that up and choose now to implement this Plan and end homelessness once and for all.”
The National Homelessness Law Center is a national organization dedicated to using the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and long-term needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.