The lack of a permanent home is an obvious problem that homeless people deal with every day. But many of them also deal with constant discrimination resulting from their status – from the city, from law enforcement, and perhaps especially from fellow citizens.
Homeless people are consistently marginalized, passed up for the few employment opportunities that come their way, and targeted for crime like theft and assault.
But an ordinance introduced in city council this past week seeks to squash the lack of basic human decency in dealing with homeless Jaxsons.
Ordinance 2018-308 was introduced last week by council member Katrina Brown. Brown has come under fire during her stint in city council for the taxpayer price tag of her family business’s bankruptcy proceedings, but she also represents a district which contains most of Jacksonville’s poorest neighborhoods – making her, at least in theory, an authority on the needs of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
The ordinance begins by addressing the existence of discrimination against homeless people by public agencies, the police, and fellow citizens, and asserts the goal of raising awareness and assuring that no human’s basic rights are trampled – regardless of their housing status.
If ratified, the ordinance would guarantee the following rights to homeless individuals in Jacksonville:
- the right to move freely in public spaces including sidewalks, parks, etc.
- the right to be protected by law enforcement
- the right to occupy a legally-parked vehicle
- the right to practice religion in public
- the right to turn down offers of service at their own discretion (i.e., not being forced into an ER trip they can’t afford)
- the right to equal treatment by government agencies
- the right to freedom from discrimination by employers
- the right to receive quality emergency treatment/care
- the right to vote, and to receive the proper documents for voting
- the right to have personal and confidential records kept private
- the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy over personal property
This new “homeless bill of rights” would become the city’s standard operating procedure in its interactions with homeless individuals, and would be circulated to all city employees to promote awareness.
The ordinance will have to pass through the Rules Committee and the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee prior to a vote from council.
But if passed, it may be an important step in changing attitudes toward homeless people in Jacksonville from disgust and disdain to empathy and helpfulness.
What do YOU think about the Homeless Bill of Rights proposal? Let us know in the comments section below, or on social media!