I learned of your editorial “The Homeless Bill of Rights” by Mariah Clegg through my roommate, a UCSB graduate. The Voice highlights the criminalization of homelessness through policies that prevent homeless people from sitting, sleeping, or panhandling in community spaces. However, categorizing a group of people as unworthy to share our public areas not only runs counter to the American value of equality, but it also sends the message that homeless lives do not matter. This message often leads to violence against homeless people. In California, anti-homeless laws are directly linked with increased violence against the homeless. California also has the highest number of assaults against homeless people. This is unacceptable. We must protect our public spaces, and all those who share them, from violence.
Corporations may say it is bad for business if a homeless person asks for money outside their stores. However, it is even worse for business if a homeless person is attacked outside their stores. These assaults are driven by contempt for homeless people. We must stand against this kind of hatred for the protection of homeless people and the welfare of the public spaces this editorial so passionately defends.
Social justice organizations are working to propose a Homeless Bill of Rights in California. We must make sure that protection from discrimination and violence is part of this Homeless Bill of Rights. Housing status should never determine the right to protection from hate. This is a human right, and we must make sure that our public spaces, and those who occupy them, are free from discrimination.