Human Rights and Homelessness

Human Rights and Homelessness

by LARA GULARTE, Diamond Springs

In a letter to the editor, “Housing first disaster,” I had much to disagree with. The words I found especially offensive — “Do you want to live next to a group of homeless people who have no accountability of not doing drugs or gaining meaningful employment?”

I would ask Gherardi to consider that homelessness is complex. Reasons for homelessness begin with unaffordability and lack of housing.

Homelessness includes privatization of public services resulting in less access to health care and social services by vulnerable groups, such as those with language and cultural differences, the mentally ill and drug dependent individuals. Other reasons include displacement due to natural disasters, urban gentrification and more.

People who experience homelessness are discriminated against for having no official address. Lack of an address affects people’s ability to work, social benefits and the right to vote. The right to life is jeopardized when the homeless are not able to access health care for preventable medical issues.

The homeless are stigmatized with criminalization that violates rather than safeguards their rights. Consider that people are criminalized for the necessity of performing their basic human needs in public like sleeping, sheltering and tending to personal hygiene. They must endure “sweeps,” with their personal property confiscated. People living outside in the elements are prey to robbery, violence and other dangers.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services …”

We should all understand that not only are the homeless deprived of an access to housing, but face social exclusion, discrimination and loss of human dignity. I thank El Dorado Opportunity Knocks Continuum Care for its commitment to help our unhoused neighbors. “Housing first” is no disaster.