Years of research and advocacy around criminalization of homelessness and increasing violence committed against people experiencing homelessness has shown that added protections are needed to preserve the civil rights of people experiencing homelessness. Moreover, the over-representation of people of color among those experiencing homelessness requires further dedication to principles of equity and equal access to public resources.
House Bill 55 is a Bill of Rights for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness to ensure that all individuals, regardless of housing status, have equal opportunity to live in decent, safe, sanitary, and healthful accommodations and enjoy equality of opportunities.
To that end, this bill sets forth the rights of individuals experiencing homelessness and creates a process by which the State Human and Civil Rights Commission and the Division of Human Relations may accept and investigate complaints of discriminatory treatment, attempt conciliation, and refer enforcement actions to the Department of Justice where necessary.
The listed rights in the legislation are as follows:
- To use and move freely in public spaces, including public sidewalks, public parks, public transportation, and public buildings, in the same manner as any other individual and without discrimination on the basis of the individual’s housing status.
- Not to face discrimination by a State, county, or municipal agency.
- Not to face discrimination while seeking or maintaining housing due to the individual’s lack of a permanent address, the individual’s address being that of a shelter or social service provider, or the individual’s housing status. This right does not, however, entitle an individual facing eviction to a truncated or expedited housing application process that might limit consideration of the reason for eviction in an evaluation of the individual’s reliability as a tenant, nor does it prohibit a shelter from establishing and adhering to a policy relating to a maximum length of stay for an individual in that shelter.
- Not to face discrimination while seeking temporary shelter because of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, national origin, or housing status, except in the case of temporary shelters specifically designated for a specific gender or familial status, or in the case of funding sources that require certain populations be served. This right does not introduce any new requirement with regard to the obligation of shelters or other providers to update their facilities or provide new accommodations.
- To medical and dental care, free from discrimination based on the individual’s housing status.
- To vote, register to vote, and receive documentation necessary to prove identity for voting without discrimination due to the individual’s housing status. This right may not, however, be construed to require a temporary shelter to accept documents on that individual’s behalf.
- To protection from unlawful disclosure of the individual’s records and information provided to temporary shelters, service providers, and State, county, municipal, and private entities, including the right to confidentiality of personal records and information in accordance with all limitations on disclosure established by the Delaware Community Management Information System, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1320d, et seq., and the federal Violence Against Women Act, 34 U.S.C. §§ 12291, et seq.
- The same reasonable expectation of privacy in the individual’s personal property while residing in temporary shelter as an individual residing in a permanent residence. This right may not, however, be construed to prevent reasonable searches performed pursuant to posted rules.
- The same reasonable expectation of privacy in the individual’s personal property while in public spaces as an individual who is not homeless, and the same reasonable expectation of respect for the individual’s personal property as an individual who is not an individual experiencing homelessness. These rights may not be construed to prevent reasonable searches otherwise conducted in accordance with law, or to prevent nondiscriminatory enforcement of other laws, including anti-loitering laws.
- To occupy a motor vehicle or recreational vehicle, provided that the vehicle is legally parked on public property.
- To pray, meditate, worship, or practice religion in a public space without discrimination based on housing status.
- To eat, drink, share, accept, or give food and non-alcoholic beverages in a public space in which having food and beverages is not prohibited.
|House Bill 55 – Homeless Bill of Rights||Currrent Status – House Judiciary 1/19/23|
|House Sponsors – Lynn, Dorsey Walker, Bolden, Lambert, Morrison, Neal, Wilson-Anton||Senate Sponsors – Hoffner, Pinkney, Townsend, McBride // Hocker|
|House Yes Votes –||Senate Yes Votes –|
|House No Votes –||Senate No Votes –|
|House Absents or Not Voting –||Senate Absent or Not Voting –|