Academic journal article The Journal of Law in Society

Homelessness: A Moral Dilemma and an Economic Drain

Academic journal article The Journal of Law in Society

Homelessness: A Moral Dilemma and an Economic Drain

Article excerpt

  I. INTRODUCTION  II. CITY OF DETROIT EFFORT III. WHO ARE THE HOMELESS IN DETROIT? III. HIGH COST OF HOUSING  IV.  STEPS TO LESSEN THE PROBLEM OF HOMELESSNESS       A. Step One: Lessen the Inequity in Bargaining Power Between          Lenders and Citizens       B. Step Two: Reinstate Usury Laws for Financial Institutions       C. Step Three: Regulate the Industry More Strictly       D. Step Four: Limit Tax Foreclosures       E. Step Five: Reform the Family Independence Program (FIP)       F. Step Six: Limit Financial Institution Spending       G. Step Seven: Control Financial Institution Practices       H. Step Eight: Create Tax Benefit Legislation for Financial          Institutions       I. Step Nine: Reinstate Re-Entry Programs       J. Step Ten: Make the Convicted Felon Rule More Rational       K. Step Eleven: Increase These Programs       L. Step Twelve: Eliminate Credit Checks for Public Housing       M. Step Thirteen: Increase Legal Aid Attorneys   V. THE TEN YEAR PLAN  VI. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

The right to decent housing is embedded in Western thought. Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, and ratified by the United States Senate states:

   Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the    health and well being of himself and of his family, including food,    clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services,    and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness,    disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in    circumstances beyond his control. (2) 

This sentiment was predated by less than a year in 1948 by the Organization of American States (OAS) in Article 11 of the American Declaration on Rights and Duties of Man; (3) and then reaffirmed in 1965, in Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; (4) in 1966, in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; (5) in 1979, in Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; (6) and in 1989, in Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. (7)

In the strongest economic power the world has ever known, we at Michigan Legal Services, the Center for Civil Justice, other legal aid organizations throughout the state, and the United Community Housing Coalition, witness homelessness that could easily be prevented. This paper will outline some of the causes of homelessness and arguments for the recognition of housing as a human right, and as a means of combating the problem.

II. CITY OF DETROIT EFFORT

In 2004, the City of Detroit began the process of creating a plan to end homelessness in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. A community-wide coalition of city departments, social services, not-for profits, and others met and created a plan driven by this vision statement:

   Our vision is that every individual and family in our community    has a home that is decent, safe and affordable, and that they    receive every support needed in order to remain housed. This    vision is grounded in the belief that through our commitment to    working together, being open to new ways of thinking and    acting, and having this shared vision, we can--and will--move    forward together to achieve real change in our community. (8) 

The coalition members clearly acted within the scope of a vision embraced by the international community for decades. In February 2006, Detroit hosted Super Bowl XL and new impetus was given to this planning process. It resulted in a plan, described below, that is now in search of resources to carry it out.

III. WHO ARE THE HOMELESS IN DETROIT?

There are many ways to become homeless, and many pressures that accompany home ownership today that were not present when this nation was built. Particularly in Detroit, where home ownership was seen as an American birthright, and where the percentage of home ownership has typically been one of the highest in the nation, the prevalence of homelessness is a historical change. …

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