In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the weekend commemorating his contributions to the Civil Rights movement, members of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) are holding days of action in support of the civil and human rights of homeless people.
WRAP’s days of action will highlight and push for the passage of our Right to Rest Act, which would help end the criminalization and incarceration of unhoused individuals and families. The proposed state legislation is a response to the growing trend of cities creating laws that make it illegal to sit, sleep, stand, and share food in public space.
“This bill is really about basic justice,” said Oregon State Senator Chip Shields, who will be introducing the Right to Rest Act this legislative session. “People who are homeless not only struggle with life on the street, they struggle with the indignity of being treated like criminals because they have nowhere to eat, sit, or sleep. This bill is about making sure everyone is treated humanely under the law.”
“We raise our voices this week to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and continue his work in fighting for the civil rights of the most marginalized in our society,” said Ibrahim Mubarak of Portland’s Right 2 Survive, one of the 130 organizations working actively on the Right to Rest campaign. “With shelters filled to capacity and thousands of people on waiting lists for housing around the state, homeless people have no choice but to live in public space. Cities cannot continue to act as if arresting people for that is going to solve the problem.”
In December, a federal judge suspended a Ft. Lauderdale law banning public food sharing after it received national attention when a 90-year old resident was arrested twice for serving meals to homeless individuals. This past June, another federal court struck down an ordinance in Los Angeles banning people from sleeping in their vehicles—arguing that it discriminated against the poor.
“Recent court rulings have shown that these types of laws are not only immoral and unjust, but illegal,” said Eric Ares of the Los Angeles Community Action Network. “They do not stop crime, but rather punish people for being poor and homeless. Cities are not going to ticket their way out of homelessness. Housing is the only solution, but until then we must continue to protect the civil rights of all people.”
WRAP continues its fight to protect these civil rights for all. Rhode Island, Illinois and Connecticut have all passed Homeless Bill of Rights laws in recent years. In Oregon, State Representative Chip Shields (D-Portland) recently introduced Right to Rest legislation. The California state legislature is expected to introduce Right to Rest legislation in the coming weeks.
WRAP’s Right to Rest Days of Action are taking place in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Chico and several other cities. WRAP’s actions stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all other groups fighting unjust, violent law enforcement.
“Policymakers and elected officials can no longer use the police, discriminatory laws, and unjust enforcement as solutions to the problems that pervade our communities,” said Paul Boden of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. “They cannot ignore the calls for justice emanating from cities across the country.”