Bipartisan effort to enact Homeless Bill of Rights in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, July 25 – State Reps. Isabella Fitzgerald, D-Phila., and Thomas Murt, R-Montgomery/Phila., announced they introduced legislation to enact a “Homeless Bill of Rights” to protect fundamental civil and human rights of homeless people.

“Homelessness continues to be an issue in many communities across the Commonwealth. Local codes that outlaw loitering, vagrancy, sitting or lying on the sidewalk, begging, eating in public, and other behaviors disproportionately affect homeless people,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said House Bill 1664 would protect the homeless population’s rights to move freely in public spaces, and receive equal treatment by all government agencies, employers and health care providers. The legislation would also shield their right to vote and the confidentiality of personal records and information.

“Homelessness involves not only individuals but entire families. On any given day, over 15,000 Pennsylvanians are known to be homeless. During one school year, our education system serves approximately 13,000 homeless children,” she added.

Murt emphasized there are key rights the homeless population needs to have protected. The Homeless Bill of Rights would establish that no person should suffer unnecessarily, be denied basic rights or be subject to unfair discrimination based on their homeless status.

“As the burdens of joblessness grow and the pressures on public resources increase, we have a responsibility to lessen the negative effects of homelessness,” Murt said. “This bill is committed to making sure the homeless have the right to move about freely and are not discriminated against.”

Fitzgerald concluded, “It is past time to develop effective solutions for those on the streets and enable persons who are homeless to make a transition to stability. We need to provide permanent solutions — jobs and housing — so that people can break the cycle of homelessness and become productive citizens.”