During Universal Human Rights Month, we join partners across the country to reaffirm that housing is a human right, that no one should experience housing instability, and that we should never be a society that punishes those who experience homelessness. We know that the administration is working to develop an executive order that includes widespread criminalization policies of individuals who are unstably housed.
In the wealthiest nation, 550,000 people experience homelessness, and millions more live on the cusp of homelessness. Despite these numbers, which show a clear, urgent need for federal action and resources, the Trump administration has continued to respond to the crisis by favoring actions that criminalize homelessness. Such policies are counterproductive, expensive, and will only make it more difficult for people experiencing homelessness to find stable, affordable housing and access services.
As a human rights organization with a long legacy of supporting the housing and needs of people experiencing homelessness, Heartland Alliance knows that the real solution to ending homelessness is affordable and accessible housing, effective services and supports, and the right to housing. The federal government must significantly expand investments and coordinate across agencies. Cruelly targeting or unlawfully detaining those who are experiencing homelessness or unstably housed is simply not the answer.
People experiencing homelessness are people with medical issues, people who were justice-involved, people struggling with substance use, people who cannot access quality jobs and affordable and reliable transportation, and people struggling with mental health concerns. Three in four extremely low-income households pay at least half of their limited incomes on rent, leaving few resources for food, medical care, or other basic needs, and puts them at high risk of eviction, and in the worst cases, homelessness. These individuals have experienced violence and trauma, they are people of color who have been failed by our systems and policies for generations, they are individuals who identify as LGBTQ—they are people, they face challenges, and they need support, not punishment
Let us be very clear, any strategy that this administration proposes that would criminalize individuals experiencing homelessness is cruel, ineffective, and definitively wrong. Heartland Alliance will continue to stand with those experiencing homelessness, and we will work with partners across the country to do everything possible to make sure that efforts to criminalize homelessness are blocked.