Homeless Rights at Last?
Last weekend The Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition launched The homeless bill of rights in partnership with Housing Rights Watch, FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless) and Just Fair.
Almost 100 people crammed into the Hanover Room at the Brighthelm Centre last Sunday 28th October 2018 in Brighton.
All three of our MPs locally sent messages of support for the bill of rights, as did many other experts in the field including Dr Tim Worthley from Arch Healthcare.
The Bill of Rights
David Thomas, the legal officer for Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition said of the launch event “We thought it was phenomenally successful and we managed to rally a lot of support for this launch.”
“There are no other cities in the UK that have adopted a proper bill of rights for the homeless and we want Brighton and Hove to be the shining example for good practice and helping the homeless for the rest of the UK.
“We want Brighton and Hove City Council to adopt this bill of rights so we are calling on support from trade unions, businesses and the public to help push this important cause.”
Support from Local MPs and Experts
Lloyd Russell-Moyle said: “This bill is another important step to enforce, fight and win rights for those in our city. Well done to those involved.”
Human Rights are for the protection and dignity of everyone, whatever their housing situation. However, we all know that in practice people who have the misfortune to become homeless are far too often treated with contempt and disregard, including by public officials and services.
This Bill of Rights is intended as a reminder and challenge to everyone to treat our fellow citizens with respect and courtesy and to do what we can to help those who are
in this desperate situation.
We call on Brighton and Hove City Council to adopt this Bill of Rights, which has been developed by many homeless organisations across Europe, and to develop strategies and
policies to make these rights effective and real for homeless people in our city. A number of cities across Europe, including Barcelona, have adopted it; we hope that our city will
become the first British one to do so.
The Bill of Rights
The full text is attached. The words are not written in stone, and it may be amended and approved before it is finally (we hope) adopted by the city. In summary, the rights are these:
The Right to Housing
This is the first and most fundamental right, contained in human rights treaties to which the UK is a signatory, and the first commitment the Council must make is to work with the national government to end homelessness; but for the present that is only something we can work towards.
The Right to Shelter
While we work towards making the right to housing real, we must provide emergency accommodation and shelter enough that no one has to sleep rough.
The Right to Use Public Space
People have the right to use public spaces, such as parks, streets, and sidewalks, for peaceful assembly, protest, and other forms of expression. This right is protected by laws and regulations that govern the use of public space and ensure that it is accessible to all people, regardless of their background or status.
The Right to Equal Treatment
People have the right to be treated fairly and without discrimination on the basis of their race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics. This includes the right to equal access to education, employment, housing, and other essential services. Laws and policies that promote equality and protect against discrimination are crucial for ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to lead a fulfilling and productive life.
The Right to a Postal address
Having a postal address is a fundamental right, it allows people to receive mail, register for government services, and participate in civic life. It also enables people to access the benefits of the economy, like opening a bank account, applying for a credit card, or receiving online deliveries.
The Right to Sanitary Facilities
Everyone has the right to access to adequate and clean sanitation facilities, including toilets, washrooms, and bathing areas. This is crucial for maintaining good health and hygiene and preventing the spread of disease.
The Right to Emergency Services
Everyone has the right to access emergency services, such as medical care and fire protection, in times of crisis or danger. This right is protected by laws and regulations that ensure that emergency services are available and accessible to all people, regardless of their location or financial resources.
The Right to a Vote
Citizens have the right to participate in the democratic process by voting in elections. This right is protected by laws and regulations that ensure that elections are free, fair, and accessible to all eligible voters.
The Right to Data Protection
Individuals have the right to control their personal data, including how it is collected, stored, and shared. This right is protected by laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that regulate the handling of personal data and give individuals the right to access, correct, and delete their information.
The Right to Privacy
People have the right to privacy, which includes the right to control their personal information and to keep certain aspects of their life private. This includes the right to privacy in their home, as well as in their communications and online activities. Laws and regulations that protect privacy help to ensure that people can live their lives without fear of surveillance or intrusion.
The Right to Survival Practices
While people remain actually homeless, they must survive as best as they can, and they should not be criminalized for doing so. People should not be arrested for asking for help.
The Right to Respect for Personal Property
The belongings of a homeless person are entitled to the same respect and protection as everyone else’s.
The Right to Life
It is so dangerous to life and health to be homeless that the average age of death is 43. Yet we live in a country where no record is kept of the deaths of homeless people and their
deaths are rarely investigated. This right commits the Council to keeping a record of the deaths of homeless people (including those in temporary and emergency accommodation) and to ensuring those deaths are adequately investigated.
We are inviting as many organizations and people as possible to attend the launch.
Following the launch, we shall be calling on all the political parties to commit to adopting
the Bill of Rights in their manifestos for next May’s elections, and we shall be inviting
everyone to sign up in support of the campaign.
After the launch on the 28th, we shall be trying to get all-party support for the initiative. If the Council accepts the Bill of Rights, they will need to incorporate its principles into many of its policies and practices and to work with other partner organizations to achieve its goals. Our organization, the Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition, will be campaigning to hold the Council to its promises, and in particular, we envisage an annual audit in which we hope as many local organizations and campaigners as possible will participate, keeping the issues before the public eye and holding the public bodies involved to account.
FEANTSA* – Housing Rights Watch – Just Fair
*The European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless.
For further information contact [email protected]