The National Coalition for the Homeless has issued a briefing paper this week in Washington DC on the opinions of homeless people in the nation's capital. This was a summer project by students at George Washington University to interview homeless people about their treatment that they receive by law enforcement, private businesses, medical services and social services.
It is no surprise that law enforcement and private businesses were widely described as having discriminating against homeless people. I find it incredible that more than a third of the homeless people living in Washington felt that they had been discriminated by social service providers and nearly half of those who responded were mistreated by medical service providers. Much of this discrimination is minor inconveniences like no bags policies at businesses but others were life threatening discrimination in limiting access to emergency rooms or not allowing homeless people to sleep outside when the shelters are all full.
There are recommendations at the end of the report which includes passage of Homeless Bills of Rights and passing anti-discrmination statutes in municipalities. There could be better training of law enforcement in how to serve low income individuals and legal cases brought against businesses that routinely deny services to fragile and disabled populations.
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