homeless person's space

Homeless Individuals Have Rights Too

by Cyndle R. Reese

Everyone has rights when they are born. Being homeless does not take these rights away from anyone. Poverty-stricken people should be treated just like everyone else, they should not be discriminated against due to their living situation.

As the days go on it is not unusual for a person to look out their car window while driving down the road, and see someone on the side of the road asking for some kind of help. Many are “Faced with a declining supply of low-income housing and increasing numbers of laws criminalizing homelessness, homeless individuals and their legal advocates have brought a number of constitutional challenges to strike down ordinances criminalizing behavior which homeless people must engage to survive.” (David Rudin, p.1) In order for an individual to survive on the streets they need a safe place to rest. However, many of the individuals face challenges due to the eighth amendment. It has been shown that, “In most courts, however, the argument that the eighth amendment prohibits anti-homeless ordinances has foundered on several obstacles” (Rudin. p.1). Leaving it difficult for homeless people to live a long life without being accused of breaking some sort of law.

Being homeless is not an easy thing. People struggling to live in the streets also struggle with “The right to use and move freely in public spaces, including, but not limited to, public sidewalks, public parks, public transportation, and public buildings, and without discrimination or harassment from law enforcement officers or other officials on the basis of housing status” (Kenstrick,1987, p.1). Most of the time business owners lack the knowledge of the rights the community has to allow them access on public grounds. Due to the lack of awareness the individuals who are fighting to find somewhere to rest can be stressful and challenging. Leaving them no choice but to migrate to different locations hoping they will be awarded with a place to sleep, “In cities throughout the country, homeless individuals are continuously relocated from place to place and faced with the quandary that by engaging in basic life activities they are breaking the law” (Rudin,2015, p.1). Some of these people are being forced off of properties when it is closing time. “Many of these individuals and their legal advocates have argued that laws prohibiting the homeless from sleeping or sitting down in public make it effectively impossible for them to exist, violating the eighth amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishments and the right to travel derived from the fourteenth amendment” (Rudin,2015, p.1). Business owners a lot of the time will kick the homeless off their property forcing them to travel somewhere new. This increases the lack of sleep and could cause the individual to get sleep deprived. Most of these people are aware that they need to leave unless they want to be fined for trespassing. If they refuse to leave the owners will most likely call the cops. “The right to give and collect food, beverages, and shelter, in public spaces or elsewhere, and to connect persons experiencing homelessness with organizations that provide shelter or transitional housing and social services, such as mental health or substance abuse counseling, medical care, and employment assistance” (Kenstrick,1987, p.1). Some even will kick homeless people off their properties before they close their doors for the day. Being homeless is not a crime, “The right to remain in public space is both a universal right that all Americans value dearly and a bulwark against deprivations that have starkly affected homeless people throughout history and, to a particularly dire extent, today” (Rudin,2015, p.1). However, many laws make it hard for people without homes to live their lives without being fined or arrested. Getting caught in Cleveland resting in public places can result in jail time (Matt, Trau, 2019, p.1).

This has made it almost impossible for low-income families and individuals to find places to sleep, or even just get out of bad weather for the night. The townspeople look at these individuals and families as criminals. Some of these business owners are scared of getting robbed. Most of the time the homeless look like they are thieves so the business owners will protect their shops and call the cops on the people living on the streets. Assuming someone is a thief due to the way they dress or look is discrimination and the homeless go through this issue everyday. Sometimes living on the streets in the city causes the homeless to break rules in order to survive and most of the time this results in many fines being charged on these individuals (Kerr,Daniel,2016,p.1). Paying fines without money is impossible. If someone accumulates multiple fines without paying them they will most likely be put in prison. Knowing that homeless people are being discriminated against because of the way they look or where they live makes it easy for the townspeople to call the cops on them and cause them to get in trouble not only with trespassing but also with stealing. Rudin explains in his article that many charges can lead to jail time. According to Rudin, “The Obergefell decision presents an opportunity for homeless advocates to push the courts to recognize a right that more directly protects against the trauma that homeless individuals endure on a daily basis at the hands of law enforcement, the right to remain in public spaces” (2015,p.1). These individuals spend days traveling from place to place trying to get some sort of food. This could mean they are asking for money, so they can buy food or are asking individuals directly for food. The public can make this difficult, due to communities assuming these people are only begging for help for an addiction they may have. This could include alcohol or drug addictions. Most people in communities refuse to help people who are fighting to survive due to any assumptions they may have about the homeless

Throughout my life I have grown up seeing my parents struggle each time the market goes up. Living expenses keep rising and this could mean that the number of people who are not financially stable enough to afford to survive will rise and soon our streets will be filled with people begging for help.I have also seen that many people throughout life have multiple jobs but still cannot afford to live in a home. This could be the reason so many of these individuals are fighting to get to a place in life where they have a place to call home and they do not have to worry about money they are bringing in. Penny Martin explains, “A new report from the Ohio Service Data Warehouse finds the number of Ohioans experiencing Homelessness continues to rise. In 2018, 76,278 unique individuals served Ohio’s Continuums of Care organizations” (2020, p.1). Ohio Continuums of Care is a housing program that helps the homeless each year find a home, but lately, they have noticed a rise in the need for homes. The only thing that can help this situation is to stand up for these individuals and provide as much help as possible. Many people who live on the streets notice that most of their rights have been taken aways. “Homeless advocates have achieved some success arguing that criminalizing homelessness violates the cruel and unusual Punishments Clause of the eighth amendment” (Rudin,2015,p.1). People around them take the homeless people for granted and treat them as if they do not exist. Knowing that many states have experienced people who live on the streets and how most of the individual rights get taken for granted, Ohio was not the first state to step up and make a law that will protect the homeless national rights. In Rudins article he had mentioned Ohio was one of the last states to take the lead and fight to help the people who are at the lowest point in their lives.(2015,p.1). I know from experience that fighting for something that feels impossible is hard. However; if you create a community that is strong and is willing to put in the effort of changing lives. As the years go on people realize that owning a home or renting only continues to grow. States have shown, “In England, Housing growing market pressures meant that the number of households accepted by local authorities as ‘Statutorily homeless’ rose sharply in the late 1900s and early 2000s. These numbers peaked in 2003 before tumbling by a remarkable 70% over the next seven years after the Labour Government steered local authorities towards the Housing Options’ model of homelessness Prevention” (Suzanna, Fitzpatrick,2021, p.117). Most people do not realize that a law similar to Housing Options’ model of homelessness was passed in Cleveland Ohio in the mid-2000s preventing discrimination against poverty-stricken people. “The Homeless Bill of Rights is to enshrine and protect the civil and human rights of people while they are experiencing homelessness” (David Kenstrick ,1987, p.1). Creating this law allowed for people who are homeless and people who are not to have equal rights. This law gives homeless people respect and the chances for bullying to stop, which most homeless people face every day. Later down the road in 2018 a new group called Homeless Congress was created to come up with ideas to help the individuals suffering from financial support. “For several years, people with lived experience of homelessness in Cleveland have been convening in a space known as Homeless Congress, where a diverse group of people with firsthand experience gather, share ideas, make connections, and push for changes in our community” (Kenstrick,1987,p.1) The main goal here is to stop discrimination and help the ones who need support and assists to get back on their feet.

Homelessness has affected many different age groups, but it is highly common in adults from ages 50-70 (Martin,2020, p.1). Not only do adults have issues supporting their own financial needs but Veterans who have served our country for years on end are also experiencing homelessness. Statistics show, “There are about 730 veterans currently experiencing homelessness, according to data from Ohio’s department of Veterans Services” (Trau Morgan,2022,p.1). Coming out of the military can put a lot of stress on our veterans. Most of the time the ones who serve for us are released or retire from the military and have little to no money to survive on, leading to them having nowhere to live, and no food or water to survive on. The Ohio Department of Veterans has put together a program to help solve this problem. “Legislators introduced House Bill of 407, the Safe Shelter Initiative Program” (Morgan, p.1). It was passed to make sure that no Veteran who comes out of the military suffers from homelessness.

However, Veterans and older people are not the only ones who fill up the Homeless population. During the Vietnam war, many children were separated from their mothers and never reunited with them. They were forced to live on their own and forced to find food and shelter to keep them safe. Although this is a tragedy for young children it also allowed them to grow independence and strong friendships down the line (Ellen, Gilbert,2010,p.1). Race plays a big part in daily life activities, business opportunities and is a huge factor in homelessness.Most homeowners are white and there are limited homeowners who are African American. Not only are these people affected by the decisions made for them, due to the way they look, or the color of their skin, but they are also affected by life illness.

I have not worked in a hospital for long but in the short amount of time working in one has shown me that many individuals who live on the streets have a hard time fighting illnesses. Being out in the brutal storms without food, water, and shelter that are meant to keep individuals safe, can cause illness to appear more often. Growing up my family has always taught me to get the proper nutrients in order for the body to fight any illness. Fighting these illnesses without assistance of medication, or nutrients from certain foods and water can make getting rid of these colds almost impossible. Patients I work with come into the hospital weak and helpless. Doctors not only have to find medications that help make them stronger, but they also need to feed them a well balanced meal to allow for their bodies to restore the strength they once had. This means that if the homeless were to get sick they would have little to no way of curing their disease or any viruses that may haunt them. In order to make them stronger they may need food that will supply them the nutrients they need and water to keep them hydrated. A lot of homeless people do not realize the sources they have to help them get the food and water they need, or shelter that could keep them safe and warm.

Working in the hospital the awareness of homeless people has opened up. A lot of patients who have been treated in the hospital have no address or cell phone.This makes going to the doctors or hospital difficult. A lot of the time when many people go to a healthcare facility they ask for an address to be able to send notices of medical bills or other medical information, like when the patient’s next visit is. Some may be too scared to step foot into these facilities due to their lack of money and health insurance, or knowing they will be judged during most of their visit. Healthcare workers try their best to meet the needs of homeless people however it makes treating them difficult due to the lack of money. They will do as much as they can but there is a limit that they need to stop so they keep the medical bills at a minimum. Some workers also recommend facilities that cost less and will save the homeless money down the road. The awareness of health issues among the homeless have caused the Institute of medicine to step up and do something to help these individuals and their families. In the Institute of Medicine article they state, “Recognition of the special health care needs of homeless people has encouraged the development of special services for them” (Institute of Medicine, p.1). Medication can also be difficult to prescribe to the homeless due to the lack of communication. What healthcare providers have to keep in mind is the risk of allergic reactions they can receive from medication and whether or not the medication has a side effect of drowsiness. Being drowsy while living on the streets could cause accidents due to the lack of awareness the homeless will have while taking the medication (Institute of Medicine,1988, p.1). These services could offer the doctor access to communicate with the patients that do not have a phone. It also allows them to check up on them and schedule any follow up appointments that are needed. The facilities have access to the poverty stricken patients and, “Those people and agencies involved in the effort to address the health care problems of homeless people interact regularly and frequently” (Institute of Medicine,1988, p.1). This means the doctors will be able to treat these patients equally. It could also make these individuals feel safe and know when they get sick they have doctors that they can count on.

Working in a hospital has taught me a lot about the rights our patients have. The rights an individual has does not change due to their living situation. Doctors and any other healthcare worker including myself are responsible for treating all our patients equally. Being admitted into a healthcare facility could cause a lot for those with no insurance. However, a doctor still can treat them and it is their job to treat the patient until they are well enough to leave the hospital. They will be admitted for as long as they need to be however once their illness is gone they will be discharged. Healthcare facilities have programs that help the homeless get back on their feet. They can make calls to these facilities and offer these patients assistance if they want it. The assistance given can help with employment, food, and even programs that can help with mental health.

Facilities have been made all around the U.S. that are offered to give the homeless a place to live rent-free. These facilities allow homeless, “The right to safe and affordable emergency and/or transitional shelter and permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness” (Kenstrick, 1987, p.1). These facilities allow the homeless to rest in a facility where they can feel safe. It also prevents them from getting in trouble for crashing on private property or businesses that will not allow them to rest on their premises when they are closed. Some facilities even feel like a home allowing homeless families to enjoy privacy and know what a true home feels like. Driving down the road I have seen not only adults suffering to find a place to live but also young children. Which makes it possible for some of these young homeless children to go without a home for most of their lives. William Nina has explained in her article that many young children who have grown up on the streets do not know how to properly survive, so Nina has shown these individuals how to survive on their own and have a home that does not involve living on the streets (2018, p.1). Living their whole life on the street since they were born could limit the knowledge they have about the rights they are born with and the freedom they have. Kenstrick has explained in his article that homelessness continues to increase as years go on (1987, p.1). Spreading awareness allowed for many groups around the world to gather enough money to build homes.These homes are meant to shelter the homeless rent-free. Not only do these shelters help with their sleeping situations but most are located near bus routes so the sheltered people have access to transportation.

Life can bring many obstacles and trying to get through these obstacles alone can be very stressful. Living your life with little money and having responsibilities that require money have ways of digging you into a hole. Most people have struggled for some time in their lives and it is only a matter of time before the struggle is so depriving that individuals begin to sink and have a hard time floating back to the surface. Sometimes many people just need a little push to know that there are people who are on their side. I know from living in a big family that budgeting is something everyone needs to be familiar with so that the things that are so valuable to use do not disappear. For example Kelly Ryan, a father of ten kids and a husband, failed to keep money on the table at all times and when times get rough he decided to pull out a loan that almost cost his family. “Kelly, you’ve jeopardized the one thing we have in the world—our home” (Terry Ryan,2001, p.311). The only way his family dug themselves out of the hole that Kelly had got them into was with a little help from his wife, and her luck at a prize-winning contest.

Columbus was one of the first cities to come up with the idea of building homes for the homeless families, allowing them a place to live for as long as they need and a place where they will have no debt to pay back. These families have access to, “The three-bedroom, two-bath Columbus Legacy house which sits on a lot donated by the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, and is sized to meet the needs of a family, yet remain affordable for them to maintain, inscale, materials, and systems. It was also designed to appeal to a mass market” (Gerfen Katie,2020, p.1). These homes are also fully furnished, including toys in the children’s rooms, and contains a lawn for the family to enjoy the outdoors. The homes are gifted and when the family has gotten back on their feet they have the opportunity to sell the property to buy or build the house of their dreams. The homes were only possible with the help of donations and the group has the intention of building more of these houses around the country to help more homeless people get back on their feet. Everyone who was part of building these homes had the choice to be a part of this program that was originally designed to help those who are in need of a little assistance. Many of these workers could of backed out of sharing their valuable free time helping the homeless however; “They volunteered time on site, offering to paint walls, and, unbeknownst to the Moodys, even raised and individually donated money to furnish the children’s rooms and stock them with toys and clothes, and furnish other areas” (Geren,2020, p.1). Allowing these families a place to live is the least they could do. These families were now at the surface of their recovery and all it took was a little push in the right direction. Not only will these homes give the homeless people a place to live and a place that is safe, but also give them a chance to get back to their daily life activities. They will have a place to call home and an address that belongs to them. They will have an easier time getting the medical care they need, for both the adults and children. They also have the assistance to help start their new career path allowing them to continue their lives in a financially stable setting. Their children will also be able to go to school and achieve any of their goals that they may have. Going through most of their life not knowing what it is like to have a home and a neighborhood where they can meet new friends, can be depressing and lonely. Giving struggling individuals and families a place they can call home could be the next step in preventing homelessness.The Columbus group has made it possible for these several Poverty stricken families to live safe and warm. They have shown these individuals that it is okay to ask for help. They have also shown people around the world that when you step up to help someone in need, others could be encouraged to do the same.

Everyone needs assistance from someone in their lives. Whether it is the help needed to pay bills or help to do a new job, we all need help here and there. Homelessness causes struggles every day for affected people. Instead of turning our backs and walking away, we should put in the effort to help these people as much as we can.


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Institute of Medicine. (1988). Homelessness, health, and human needs – NCBI bookshelf.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218232/

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Kerr, D. R. (2016). ‘Almost like I am in Jail’: homelessness and the sense of immobility in Cleveland, Ohio. Cultural studies30(3), 401-420.

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Nina, W. M. (2018). Ready or Not: Preparing Young people to be on their own is essential as they transition out of foster care.

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Ryan,Terry. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Simon and Schuster Paperback, 2001.

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Trau, Matt. (2019). The criminalization of homelessness. Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Retrieved February 17, 2023, from https://lasclev.org/the-criminalization-of-homelessness/

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