MSW Alums Nate Fox and Barbara Shaw Helped Organize the Passage of A Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights

Connecticut is only the third state to pass An Act Concerning A Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights. The historic measure, serves to protect the basic rights of all Connecticut residents by mandating the equal treatment of people experiencing homelessness, specifically by reaffirming their civil liberties and preventing discrimination based on homelessness.

At the ceremony in July, Governor Malloy praised the new law and emphasized its importance in promoting dignity and respect for all residents. Prior to its passage, the legislation faced a lengthy journey through the Legislature, passing through four legislative sub-committees before being approved by the Connecticut Legislature on June 5 in a show of bipartisan support. Joining the Governor at the ceremony was a number of supporters of the bill including Hands On Hartford Executive Director, Barbara Shaw MSW ’87, and Nate Fox MSW ’13.

Governor Malloy Signs Homeless Bill

The law will go into effect on October 1, 2013. Connecticut joins a growing national movement to protect the civil and human rights of people experiencing homelessness by inscribing them into law.

The purpose of the Homeless Bill of Rights according to Nate Fox, a community organizer with Hands on Hartford and a principal promoter of the bill’s introduction and passage, is to “raise public awareness and create an institutional response” to the “deferential treatment and structural issues that… sustain homelessness.” In addition to reaffirming the right to vote, personal property and privacy, the bill guarantees that people experiencing homelessness receive equal treatment from police officers and have the right to be in public areas free from unjust persecution. Fox hopes that the Homeless Bill of Rights will provide “recourse and accountability” if homeless individuals are subject to continued discrimination. In response to the opposition, which deemed a Homeless Bill of Rights as giving homeless people preferential treatment, Fox said “it is about people who have unequal rights and bringing them up to a level of equal rights.”

Rhode Island was the first state to create a Homeless Bill of Rights, which was signed into law June 2012, inspiring organizers in Connecticut and Illinois to move forward on similar pieces of legislation. Fox believes that expanding a Homeless Bill of Rights to every state “can and should be done – the progress in Rhode Island, Illinois, and Connecticut will raise the public dialogue and change some of that apathy, stigma, and stereotyping” that promotes the cycle of homelessness.”