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NCH policy on the Right to Housing

The National Coalition for the Homeless holds the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights platform on the right to an adequate standard of living as the standard for all human rights: 

“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.”

– Universal Declaration of Human Rights

We support the clarification of the Universal Declaration in the 1966 Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) 

The right to adequate housing, also referred to as the right to housing, is “the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.” It requires “adequate privacy, adequate space, adequate security, adequate lighting and ventilation, adequate basic infrastructure and adequate location with regard to work and basic facilities – all at a reasonable cost.” Parties must ensure security of tenure and freedom from discrimination to prevent and end homelessness.  Forced evictions, defined as “the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection,” are a prima facie violation of the Economic , Social and Cultural Covenant.

We recognize that shelter might be necessary as an emergency and temporary resource.  We believe that that any emergency and temporary shelter without privacy, dignity, and security shall not become a permanent alternative to housing in any community. 

We believe that providing affordable, safe, secure and accessible housing for every person in the U.S. is not only possible but is also a sacred right.  We recognize that within the United States there are enough resources and wealth to provide a safe, secure, accessible, private, peaceful and dignified place for every person.  Every jurisdiction in this nation has access to resources that can be re-claimed for providing housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.  Creative solutions abound. We believe that housing sitting empty should be claimed by local jurisdictions as a public resource and turned over to those in need of housing.  Taxpayers paid for the infrastructure to build these units and so these public assets need to be reclaimed and put to good use.  No person living within the United States should have to attempt to survive outside battling the elements without a place to live.  Homelessness too often equals early death.

The National Coalition for the Homeless supports the right to housing as a person’s own choice. NCH does not believe that turning down a place to live can be a used as a reason to take away a person’s liberty with incarceration or a medical hold in a psychiatric facility.  Forcing someone into housing or a shelter or a medical facility is not in keeping with the spirit of the Human Rights Declaration on the right to housing. Behavioral health issues need to be dealt with as medical issues not law enforcement issues.  Housing must be available and accessible to every person, but shall never be forced on anyone. 

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