Florida Congressman Alcee L. Hastings: “Cities across the country have passed laws criminalizing everyday life for homeless individuals, making it a crime to sleep outside, sleep in a vehicle, panhandle and even making it illegal to brush your teeth outside. With laws like these, it is no surprise that homeless individuals are far more likely than the general population to be victims of violent crime.”
When will America’s political leaders deal with the serious homeless problem–which includes tens of thousands of veterans?
Last week, the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, Co-Chaired by Representatives Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), hosted a briefing on preserving the rights of the homeless, stopping hate crimes, ending the criminalization of being homeless, and pushing for effective housing policies that end homelessness.
The Caucus was joined by two representatives of the National Coalition for the Homeless including Megan Hustings, Managing Director, and James Davis, Advocate, along with Maria Foscarinis, Founder and Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
“Cities across the country have passed laws criminalizing everyday life for homeless individuals, making it a crime to sleep outside, sleep in a vehicle, panhandle and even making it illegal to brush your teeth outside. With laws like these, it is no surprise that homeless individuals are far more likely than the general population to be victims of violent crime,” said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. “People in our country should have the right to live with dignity, and we have the responsibility to find effective solutions to the homelessness crisis. This is why I was proud to work with my Co-Chair, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, along with the National Coalition for the Homeless, and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty to organize today’s briefing on the urgent issue of preserving civil rights, stopping hate crimes, and ending the criminalization of homeless Americans.”
“It was a pleasure to work with my colleague Congressman Hastings to host this briefing, as protecting the most vulnerable people in this country should be a top priority of this Congress. It is critical that lawmakers and advocates raise awareness to find comprehensive solutions which both protect the homeless from violence and reduce the total number of people living on the streets,” said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. “The testimonies from our witnesses prove why our country must continue to improve housing policies to protect the civil rights and prevent the criminalization of homeless Americans.”
“As the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has documented, criminalization of homelessness is increasing across the country, and now the White House is promoting this approach. But the evidence is clear that Housing, not handcuffs, is the solution to homelessness. The Law Center appreciates the leadership of Rep. Hastings, Rep. Johnson, and the House Caucus on Homelessness, in focusing attention on this urgent issue at this critical moment,” said Maria Foscarinis, Founder and Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
“I have learned experience and lessons from others who have experienced homelessness. We definitely need to address criminalization of the homeless and what that entails. We are trying to get this recognized as a hate crime, because as you know, there are more folks experiencing homelessness who have died in the last 10 years than all of the protected classes combined,” said James Davis, Advocate for the National Coalition for the Homeless.
“The National Coalition for the Homeless is grateful to the Congressional Homelessness Caucus for shining a light on the egregious civil rights abuses people who are experiencing homelessness in the U.S. face. Our economic and housing policy has created homelessness, yet we blame individuals and families who are unhoused as if they are criminals. It is time we responded to poverty and homelessness with compassion, and common sense social supports,” said Megan Hustings, Managing Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.