Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rhode Island Senate Approves "Homeless Bill of Rights"

May 3, 2012 - The State Senate of Rhode Island approved legislation that would give homeless people greater protections against discrimination. However, it still needs to pass in the Rhode Island House of Representatives to become law.

CBS News reports that the Senate voted 33-to-2 to pass a "Homeless Bill of Rights" on Wednesday. "The legislation now moves to the House," says CBS. "The bill specifically guarantees homeless people equal access to voting, housing, public buildings, public transportation, social services, employment and law enforcement.... The Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless says about 4,400 people in the state experienced homelessness at some point in 2010.

Rhode Island would be the first state in the U.S. to adopt such legislation if it is approved by the state's House of Representatives, where it will go to the House Judiciary committee to be vetted for any potential constitutional problems.

WPRI.com reports that the bill includes the following rights for homeless people:
  • The right to be free from searches or detention
  • The right not to face discrimination while seeking or maintaining employment due to lack of a permanent mailing address
  • The right not to be criminally sanctioned for unobtrusively sleeping in a public place
  • The right to emergency medical care
  • The right to vote, register to vote and receive documentation needed to prove identity for voting
  • The right to protection from disclosure to law enforcement agencies
  • The right to confidentiality of personal records and information
  • The right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of personal property