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Join West Coast Social Justice Actions!

Join us the weekend before MLK Day, January 17th – 19th for simultaneous day(s) of action with music, artwork, dance and unity for all those whose mere presence is now considered a crime!

Over the past thirty years the number of homeless people in the United States has risen to over 3.5 million; over 1.2 million homeless children are currently enrolled in our schools. At the same time, federal funding for affordable housing, health care, education, and employment initiatives has been drastically cut. Without adequate federal support to resolve the systemic causes of homelessness, many local governments have instead been using laws, police enforcement campaigns, closure of public space, and privately sponsored patrols of downtown districts. The aim is to ensure that their communities do not become "magnets” for the homeless and that the "quality of life" for people who live in homes is not affected by the presence of homeless people. These increasing local attempts to deal with homelessness by making homeless people disappear from sight do not solve the humanitarian crisis. Instead, they involve gross violations of homeless people’s civil rights.

In June of 2012, Rhode Island took a meaningful stand against this discrimination when it passed the first statewide Homeless Bill of Rights in the country. Driven by grassroots organizing, the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) is currently creating Homeless Bill of Rights campaigns in both California and Oregon. Our goal is to create campaigns that can be used by individuals and groups throughout the country. Rhode Island will only be the beginning!

The HBR campaign, however, is more than an effort to pass state legislation. It is a way of working collectively with social-justice based groups that focus on different target populations and possess different talents to address the injustices we face in our communities. By connecting our issues, and creating relevant organizing tools such as presentations and artwork, we are building the power to create a social justice movement that will eventually enable a more decent society.

At the heart of our HBR campaigns is our outreach to homeless and poor people that documents their experiences with local police and private security. We have recently surveyed 1,276 people in five states and twelve cities. The civil rights violation they are experiencing everywhere are eerily similar. The main “illegal offenses” that homeless people are being harassed & criminalized for include: sleeping 81%, sitting or lying down 78%, and loitering or hanging out 66%.

What are the Homeless Bill of Rights Campaigns trying to achieve?

Our efforts around the HBR campaign seek to provide a framework for communities to protect the following rights and prohibit the enforcement of local laws that violate these rights:

1. Right to move freely, rest, sleep, & pray and be protected in public spaces without discrimination.

2. Right to occupy a legally parked vehicle.

3. Right to share food and eat in public.

4. Right to legal counsel if being prosecuted.

5. Right to 24-hour access to “hygiene facilities.”

6. Require judges to consider necessity defense in homeless related cases.

Guiding Strategies :

1. Demand addressing homelessness and poverty from a social-justice perspective that addresses racism and classism

2. Develop a campaign structure model which can be easily adapted by others.

3. Increase organizational endorsements and legislative support.

4. Work to increase visibility and publicity in local communities by conducting presentations and street outreach to local residents and, hosting webinars.

5. Create consistent, ongoing messaging which corresponds to our campaign goals.

6. Work with groups possessing different talents and skills.


1. Connect current laws targeting today’s poor and homeless people to historical civil rights abuses such as Sundown Towns and Anti-Okie laws.

2. Remove bureaucratic obstacles that prevent people from escaping homelessness.

3. Overturn laws aimed at removing poor and homeless people from public space.

4. Build a framework which is responsive to street outreach and shares power with impoverished people

5. Develop statewide power analysis to understand the legislative political scene in California and Oregon.

6. Obtain resolutions in support of the Homeless Bill of Rights principles.

We were the lead sponsor of the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act (AB5) that was introduced by California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano in December 2012. Along with our co-sponsors – Western Center on Law and Poverty, East Bay Community Law Center and JERICHO: A Voice for Justice - it was endorsed by over 108 local, state-wide and national organizations. On April 23, the Homeless Bill of Rights passed through the Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento with 7 yes votes. It was then placed on suspense in the Appropriations Committee where it was killed without a vote.

But although AB5 is dead, we will introduce our Homeless Bill of Rights with a new bill number, and our organizing grows stronger every day. We are building a social justice campaign to push for the passage of legislation that decriminalizes poverty and homelessness across the nation. The obstacles that we overcome together will build our strength to get the justice and equality that we deserve!


Western Regional Advocacy Project



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