Advocacy

Campaign to Establish a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness

Please Actively Support House Bill 695 and Senate Bill 46, and Speak Up for Human Rights and Dignity!

Campaign to Establish a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness
Last updated December 11, 2018

*Please sign our latest online action in support of the bill of rights.*

Summary


An Act providing a homeless bill of rights (House Bill 695) and An Act creating a bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness (Senate Bill 46) would establish a definition of homelessness and protect key rights of all residents, whether or not they are experiencing homelessness. The bills are modeled after landmark legislation passed in 2012 in Rhode Island. Similar legislation has passed since in Connecticut, Illinois, and Puerto Rico.

Bill Status

The bills were filed in January 2017 by lead sponsors Representative William Smitty Pignatelli and then-Senator Linda Dorcena Forry. House Bill 695 was sent to the Joint Committee on Housing, and was heard by the committee on June 20, 2017. It was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing on July 10, 2017. Now the bill is awaiting action by the House Committee on Ways and Means. Senate Bill 46 has been sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, and was heard on November 21, 2017. The Senate version was reported out favorably and now is awaiting action by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

The bills are nearly identical to House Bill 1129 from the 2015-2016 session. That bill was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing in December 2015 and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means. In spite of considerable support, the bill did not pass last session. We are hopeful that the momentum from last session and the pressing need to uphold human rights and dignity will propel the bills forward this session.

Why Is It Necessary to Create a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness?

People experiencing homelessness often are subjected to discrimination and mistreatment based on their housing status. Such discrimination compounds and intersects with other forms of discrimination an individual may experience related to their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability status, age, etc. The bill of rights is a guide for state and local officials emphasizing that people experiencing homelessness are entitled to the same rights as any other resident of Massachusetts. The bill of rights seeks to outline those rights so as to prevent discrimination based on housing status. The legislation recognizes the increased prevalence of homelessness in Massachusetts due to widespread economic hardship, the insufficient availability of safe, affordable housing, and a weakened social safety net.

“No person’s rights, privileges, or access to public services may be denied or abridged solely because he or she is experiencing homelessness.”

The rights specifically included in the bill of rights are the right to move freely in public spaces, the right to equal treatment by municipal agencies (such as police departments), freedom from discrimination in employment, the right to emergency medical care, the right to register to vote and to vote, freedom from disclosure of records, and the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of property.

The bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness seeks to have the rights outlined to be treated as a statement of legislative intent, as a guide for state and municipal agencies.

Click here for the legislative pages for the bill: House Bill 695 and Senate Bill 46.

List of Endorsing Organizations (as of December 2018):

Action Inc.

Allston Brighton Health Collaborative

American Friends Service Committee Material Aid & Advocacy Program

Arise for Social Justice

Boston Center for Independent Living

Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee

Boston Tenant Coalition

Boston Women's Fund

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance

Children's League of Massachusetts

City Life Vida Urbana

City Mission Boston

Coastline Elderly Services

Community Action Agency of Somerville, Inc.

Community Works

DIAL/SELF Youth & Community Services

Dismas House of Massachusetts

Emmanuel Church in the City of Boston

Family Promise MetroWest

First Baptist Church, Everett

First Church Shelter

Gates of Hope Inc.

The Haven Project

The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts

Hearts of Hope Inc.

Horizons for Homeless Children

Housing Families Inc.

Homeless Empowerment Project

Homeless Youth Providers Engaging Together

HomeStart

Inclusion Advocacy Collaborative

Justice Resource Institute/Youth Harbors

Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice at Bridgewater State University

Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants

Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless

Massachusetts Coalition on LGBTQ Youth

Massachusetts Fair Housing Center

Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance

My Brother's Table

National Association of Social Workers-Massachusetts Chapter

New Bedford Homeless Advocates Inc.

Poor People's United Fund

Roca

Rosie’s Place

Samaritans Steps, Inc.

ServiceNet, Inc.

Somerville Homeless Coalition

South Congregational Church

Spare Change News/Homeless Empowerment Project

Stop Bullying Coalition

Tapestry Health

Wayside Youth

Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness

Women's Lunch Place

Y2Y Harvard Square



Download the bill fact sheet here (updated 12-11-18). 

Read the Coalition's testimony for the June 20, 2017 Housing hearing and for the November 21, 2017 Children and Families hearing, as well as testimony from people experiencing homelessness that was gathered previously: Sherry's testimonyCharlie's testimony, and shelter residents' testimony.

Add your organization as an official endorser of the campaign here.

Protect the Rights of All Residents of Massachusetts, Regardless of Housing Status: Actively Support the Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness, House Bill 695/Senate Bill 46!