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Lowenstein Clinic Releases Two Reports on Homelessness

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, in conjunction with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), has recently released two reports on homelessness in the United States.

"Welcome Home: The Rise of Tent Cities in the United States" reports that encampments of homeless people have been documented in almost every state across the country, with many more going unreported. The report discusses positive and negative approaches taken in four case studies (in Providence, RI, Lakewood, NJ, St. Petersburg, FL, and New Orleans, LA), and analyzes applicable state, federal, and international human rights law. Lowenstein Clinic students Julie Hunter ’13, Paul Linden-Retek ’12, and Shirine Shebaya ’12 researched and authored the report under the supervision of Hope Metcalf, Clinical Lecturer at Yale Law School.

"The fact that so many people across the United States have resorted to living in tents highlights the failure to serve members of our society who have fallen on hard times," said Shebaya.

The report contains a number of policy recommendations that can be implemented by federal, state, and local authorities.

The Lowenstein Clinic and NLCHP also partnered for a report, titled "Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading: Homelessness in the United States Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." The report explores how criminalizing homelessness violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and was submitted as part of the Universal Periodic Review, a mechanism which reviews the human rights records of U.N. member states with the input of civil society. The report was drafted by clinic students Megan Corrarino ’13, Alicia Sánchez Ramírez ’15, and Ryan Thoreson ’14, with supervision by Metcalf.

"It's cruel, inhuman, and degrading to charge people as criminals for behaviors like sitting, sleeping, or urinating in public when homeless individuals lack any other space to perform those necessary human functions," said Thoreson. "Making this kind of conduct criminal effectively licenses discrimination against people experiencing homelessness — and it doubly marginalizes the people of color, LGBT people, and disabled people who are overrepresented in the nation's homeless population."

In its final report on March 27, 2014, the Human Rights Committee echoed the views in "Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading," expressing its concern that criminalizing homelessness constitutes discrimination and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The NLCHP welcomed the concluding observations, which recommended that the U.S. "abolish criminalization of homelessness laws and policies at state and local levels," coordinate and intensify efforts to establish rights-respecting solutions for homeless individuals, and incentivize decriminalization and alternative solutions at the state and local levels.

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic is a legal clinic at Yale Law School that undertakes projects on behalf of human rights organizations and individual victims of human rights abuse. The goals of the Clinic are to provide students with practical experience that reflects the range of activities in which lawyers engage to promote respect for human rights, to help students build the basic knowledge and skills necessary to be effective human rights advocates, and to contribute to efforts to protect human rights through assistance to appropriate organizations and individual clients. To that end, the Clinic undertakes a wide variety of projects every year, including fact-finding, drafting reports, amicus briefs, and legal manuals, submissions to various international human rights bodies, and other kinds of human rights advocacy.