The Human Right to Housing

Housing and homelessness are human rights issues—and that can be an organizing strength.

Anyone working on homelessness and affordable housing issues is familiar with the statistics and the human suffering behind them. We know homelessness has been a national crisis for 30 years and we know the recession and dramatic increases in foreclosures have made things much worse.

Just look at the most recent Annual Homelessness Assessment Report from HUD: family homelessness increased by 20 percent between January 2007 and January 2010. In December 2010, the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual survey of cities across the country reported a 9 percent increase in family homelessness in 2010 alone. And in addition to people who are in shelters or on the streets, over 6 million are doubled up due to economic necessity. In many communities tent cities are going up.

We know we suffer from affordable housing and homelessness crises — but how often do we think of them as human rights crises? As it happens, more and more local advocates are using a human rights framework to address issues of homelessness and housing — and they’re gaining ground.

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