On March 27th, The U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva condemned the United States for criminalizing homelessness, calling it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” that violates international human rights treaty obligations.
It also called upon the U.S. government to take corrective action, following a two-day review of U.S. government compliance with a human rights treaty ratified in 1992.
“I’m just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, and then be treated as criminals for being without shelter,” said Sir Nigel Rodley, chairman of the committee. “The idea of criminalizing people who don’t have shelter is something that I think many of my colleagues might find as difficult as I do to even begin to comprehend.”
The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty states: “While the U.S. government should be commended for recognizing that the imposition of criminal penalties on homeless people is counterproductive public policy…criminalization of homelessness at the state and local levels continues to cause significant rights violations.” So, the criminalization of homelessness is mostly occurring at the state and local level.
The U.N. committee called on the U.S. to abolish these laws and policies found at the state and local level.
The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty claims there is an estimated 3.5 million homeless people in the United States.