The Florida Homelessness Action Coalition (FLHAC) will hold four simultaneous press conferences in cities across the state next Monday, October 10, to announce its campaign to bring a Homeless Bill of Rights to the Florida legislature in 2017. October 10 is World Homeless Day.
The campaign is the culmination of an organizing effort which began last year in the wake of the National Coalition for the Homeless’ first ever conference of grassroots homeless advocates from across the country. Two of the directives which advocates took from that conference, which was hosted by the Colorado advocacy group, Denver Homeless Out Loud, were to develop practical research on the criminalization of homelessness, and to push for homeless rights legislation.
FLHAC’s core organizing group which created the campaign includes Jeff Weinberger, the group’s co-founder and founder of the Fort Lauderdale-based October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness, Rev. Bruce Wright of St. Petersburg’s Refuge Ministries and host of the Revolutionary Road Radio Show, Adam Tebrugge, Staff Attorney with the Florida ACLU, Patricia Hart, a writer and homeless person working with Tampa’s Homeless Helping Homeless and George Bolden, a formerly homeless consultant and homeless advocate based in Pinellas County.
A research study which the group initiated with St. Thomas University Law Professor Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez and his research assistant, third-year JD candidate, Jessica Biedron, will be published later this month. The report will document the extent to which 17 Florida cities have implemented laws banning life-sustaining behaviors and activities like camping, sitting and lying down, begging and food sharing. Taken together, these and other laws, combined with the extra-legal harassment endured by homeless persons every day, comprise the phenomenon referred to as “criminalization of homelessness.”
The cities hosting press conferences will be Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando and Pensacola (see press release below). Tentative speakers at the events in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, respectively, now include criminal defense attorney Benjamin Waxman, who led the Pottinger v. Miami legal team in winning a landmark settlement agreement establishing homeless persons’ rights in Miami in 1998, and long time civil rights fighter, Arnold Abbott, now 92, who was notoriously cited three times in 2014 under the former city’s food sharing ban; and in Tampa, Green Party Vice Presidential nominee Ajamu Baraka is a hopeful participant.
The draft bill, linked here with a list of endorsers, draws its language from Homeless Bill of Rights legislation already on the books in three states – Rhode Island, Illinois and Connecticut – as well as from international treaties like the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Puerto Rico also has a similar bill.
Many homeless advocates have compared the propagation of laws targeting homeless persons with laws which historically have discriminated against specific groups, most notably Jim Crow laws targeting Blacks from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights era of the 1950’s and ’60’s; Ugly Laws, Sundown Laws and many more.
The bottom line for FLHAC’s advocates, irrespective of the success of the current campaign, is to educate and mobilize more people toward building a movement dedicated to confronting systemic inequality in all its forms, none of which is more heinous than, nor as deeply embedded in the U.S.’s ‘bootstraps’ culture as the marginalization and criminalization of people based on their economic status, and especially those who are homeless.
PRESS RELEASE FOR FHBOR PRESS CONFERENCES ON 10/10/16:
FLORIDA HOMELESSNESS ACTION COALITION MEDIA ADVISORY
October 3, 2016
For Immediate Release
Campaign for Homeless Rights Legislation to Kickoff on World Homeless Day
#stopthecriminalization #decriminalizehomelessness #stopthehate
What: Florida Homelessness Action Coalition (FLHAC), a grassroots homeless advocacy coalition including organizers from Pensacola to Miami, is proud to announce our campaign to bring a Homeless Bill of Rights to the Florida Legislature in 2017 with four simultaneous press events in cities spanning the state. (Please also see supplemental attachments including press release PDF; draft bill/endorsers PDF; Campaign Flyer front and back; Statement on why we need a Homeless Bill of Rights PDF.) Bill/Endorsers Link: http://fhbor.blogspot.com/; FB: https://www.facebook.com/flhbor/
When: All locations: Monday, October 10, 2016, 10am (World Homeless Day)
Where: Four Florida cities as follows (locations subject to change)
Fort Lauderdale: Stranahan Park, 10 East Broward Boulevard (on SE 1st Ave. adjacent to park)
Tampa: Homeless Helping Homeless, Inc., 3000 North Florida Avenue
Orlando: Orlando City Hall, 400 South Orange Avenue
Contacts: Campaign Lead Organizer in Fort Lauderdale: Jeff Weinberger, October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness, 954-839-5376, firstname.lastname@example.org; Tampa/St. Pete: Rev. Bruce Wright, Refuge Ministries, 727-278-1547, email@example.com; Pensacola: Michael Kimberl, Sean’s Outpost, 850-287-0792, firstname.lastname@example.org; Orlando: Teresa Pugliese, Speak Up Florida!, 407-985-6164, email@example.com
Florida cities have led the nation in passing laws banning activities and behaviors including sitting and lying down, camping and sleeping (including in vehicles), panhandling/begging, loitering, storing personal property in public space, performing bodily functions (in the absence of public restrooms), food sharing and more. Despite their unconstitutional nature, their costliness relative to providing housing and vital social services, and their utter failure in terms of addressing the root causes of homelessness or alleviating this inhumane reality, the proliferation of laws criminalizing homelessness persists. A Florida Homeless Bill of Rights is urgently needed for the protection of the rights of society’s most vulnerable population, and for the achievement of the broader social aims of ending homelessness and confronting systemic class, racial, and other forms of inequality which intersect with homelessness.
Florida Homelessness Action Coalition (FLHAC) formed in the wake of the National Coalition for the Homeless’ first ever conference of grassroots homeless advocates, which took place in Denver at the end of April, 2015. FLHAC has been organizing two important projects in advance of today’s announcement. The first, a research study on the criminalization of homelessness in Florida, is due to be published later in October, 2016. The second is the Florida Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign, which is an effort to amend the Florida Statutes 1) by calling for the decriminalization of ostensibly constitutionally protected and/or life-sustaining activities and behaviors of people experiencing homelessness throughout Florida; and 2) by asserting fundamental rights to housing, health care, employment or income, and more, as defined in the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.