How are the rights of the homeless infringed upon in society? Poverty and homelessness are both issues that have been present in the United States for years. They cross many boundaries. It is...

How are the rights of the homeless infringed upon in society?

Poverty and homelessness are both issues that have been present in the United States for years. They cross many boundaries. It is not just one race, one gender, or one group of people who are affected by poverty or homelessness. When economic problems abound, problems with poverty and homelessness will increase.


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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a fairly complex question.  There is little doubt that homelessness and Constitutionality are both very powerful issues.  Indeed, some argue that the rights of homeless individuals are limited by civil ordinances that limit panhandling, movement, rummaging through garbage, as well as the restrictions on where homeless individuals may sleep and rest.  These individuals suggest that the homeless have a right to move and act in any manner they wish so long as it does not impinge on the rights of others' movement and actions.  For example, if a homeless person rummages through trash, there is little violation of rights.  Proponents of this line of logic suggest that business and property owners are able to use their economic influence to infringe on the rights of the homeless and essentially move them out of public view so that this social ill and reality can be "silenced."  Essentially, the treatment of homeless individuals' rights is both a substantive and procedural due process violations.  It procedurally violates their rights, as penalizing someone for rummaging through trash is not sound.  Additionally, it violates rights in a substantive manner because it targets a group of individuals, proving the inherent unfairness of the laws.  That is to say that if Bill Gates and Donald Trump were rummaging through the trash at the same time as a homeless person, only one of these three would have to face penalty.  At the same time, there is a logic that argues that there is not a fundamental right in the Constitution to be homeless.  It is not akin to religious worship, free speech, or trial protection.  These individuals suggest that if it is not a foundational or fundamental right in the Constitution, it cannot be argued on the grounds of rights based violations.  In addition to this, such individuals would suggest that the rights of business and property owners are equally sanctioned by the Constitution and have to be weighed in this situation, as well.  The person being asked for money does have a Constitutional right to be left alone.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most glaring example I can think of with regard to homeless peoples’ rights has to do with public libraries. Every once in a while I read in the newspaper about the “problem” of homeless people being in libraries. As long as they are not disturbing staff or other patrons, homeless people have just as much right to be in a public library as anyone else. Obviously the library is being used as shelter from the sun, wind, rain, etc., by these people, but I can’t imagine how the law could be rewritten so as to bar them from patronizing the library.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say one of the biggest ways in which the homeless are discriminated against legally is the lack of due process and adequate legal defense for those who live on the streets.  In addition, many states are considering or have already passed legislation requiring photo ID from residents in order to vote, and many homeless people do not have driver's licenses.

Mental illness is a huge cause of homelessness, and lack of access to adequate treatment and basic health care is another way in which the homeless have a disadvantage in America.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Being homeless is the biggest problem of the homeless people. It is not that homeless people want to be homeless. They are homeless because they do not have the economic means for renting or owning homes. So when we talk of rights of these people we should also give a thought to the extent to which other with better economic situation have the obligation to meet the needs of these people. In this context let us remember that the government, and public institutions are run using the money provided by people who do earn some money.

There is nothing wrong in providing shelter to the homeless, but if a common man using the library public library facility insists that the library should only be used as library and not as a shelter, there is some logic in that also. So if we agree that government or some other public agency must provide shelter to the homeless, let us support building suitable shelters rather than support misuse of libraries.