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6/13/2012 Assembly OKs legislation to create "Homeless Bill of Rights"
If enacted, measure will be first of its kind in nation

STATE HOUSE – Being homeless does not deny a person basic human rights, nor does it deny them access to necessary services and fair treatment.

The General Assembly today passed and sent to the governor legislation that will establish a “Homeless Bill of Rights” in Rhode Island. If enacted into law, Rhode Island will be the first state in the nation to adopt such a measure.

“It is sad that in a nation as rich as ours, there are still so many homeless people,” said Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield), sponsor of the Senate version of the bill,(2012-S2052B) . “Whether that is a long-term or short-term situation, the homeless have a right to access decent accommodations, to obtain employment and to be treated fairly by law enforcement, regardless of their housing status.”

“The fact that so many of our citizens are homeless is unconscionable,” said Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence, East Providence), sponsor of the House bill, (2012-H7173A). “The fact that homeless people are often not treated with dignity and respect makes their plight that much worse. We can’t ignore it. We have to fix it and until it is fixed we have to ensure that these individuals are treated with basic human compassion and understanding.”

Approval of the legislation in both chambers was greeted with applause from advocates watching the proceedings from the galleries.

The “Homeless Bill of Rights” will guarantee that no person’s rights, privileges or access to public services will be denied or abridged solely because he or she is homeless. The bill will guarantee, in law, that homeless individuals:

-- Have the right not to face discrimination while seeking or maintaining employment due to lack of a permanent mailing address or a mailing address that is a shelter or social service provider;

-- Have the right to use and move freely in public spaces (sidewalks, public parks, public transportation, public buildings) in the same manner as any other person and without discrimination on the basis of housing status;

-- Have the right to emergency medical care free from discrimination based on housing status;

-- Have the right to vote, register to vote and receive documentation necessary to prove identity for voting without discrimination due to housing status;

-- Have the right to protection from disclosure to law enforcement agencies without appropriate legal authority any records or information provided to homeless shelters and service providers and the right to confidentiality of personal records and information in accordance with limitations on disclosure established by the Federal Homeless Management Information Systems, the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Federal Violence Against Women Act;

-- Have the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of personal property to the same extent as personal property in a permanent residence.

-- Have the right to equal treatment by all state and municipal agencies, without discrimination on the basis of housing status.

The bill, once signed by the governor or allowed to become law without his signature, will take immediate effect.

For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457