Statement of Principles
We agree that in order to end the crisis of homelessness, the criminalization of homelessness must end and all persons experiencing homelessness should instead have access to housing, services, and opportunities that allow them to live with dignity. This solution makes sense regardless of whether we approach the issues from a legal, moral, fiscal, or policy perspective.
Millions of individuals, families, and youth on their own experience homelessness in this country each year and millions more lack access to decent, stable housing they can afford. Rather than providing adequate housing options, too many communities criminalize homelessness by making it illegal for people to sit, sleep, and even eat in public places, even in the absence of adequate alternatives.
People experiencing homelessness can be targeted under these laws for harassment, displacement, loss of property, threats, or criminal penalties when they live outdoors. And yet these expensive policies are ineffective at addressing homelessness or reducing the number of people who must sleep on the streets. In fact, more effective policies, such as providing affordable housing and services, actually cost less than criminalizing homelessness.
Criminalization of homelessness might mean that individuals experiencing homelessness are taken to jail, where they may remain for weeks if they cannot pay their bail or fines, perhaps losing custody of their children, property and/or employment in the process. Once released, they could have criminal records that make it more difficult to get or keep a job, housing or public benefits. Communities of color, mentally and physically disabled persons, and LGBTQ youth and adults, already disproportionately affected by homelessness, are most likely to be further marginalized by criminalization.
Values of the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign
- We work together with people currently experiencing homelessness and those who have experienced homelessness in the past.
- We are motivated by the fact that all humans have inherent dignity and that the full enjoyment of all human rights, including the right to adequate housing, are necessary to uphold that dignity.
- We define the right to adequate housing as more than simply four walls and a roof, but according to internationally-accepted standards that include:
- Security of tenure;
- Availability of services, materials, and infrastructure;
- Location; and
- Cultural adequacy.
- We are informed by an understanding of how structures of inequality and bias facilitate the existence of extreme poverty and homelessness and this understanding must be incorporated into solutions.
- We are committed to nonviolence in all of our work. This includes engagement that acknowledges levels of homelessness, awareness of diverse experiences among advocates, and consideration for others in the words we use to express opinions, thoughts or ideas.