Dec 10 2020
12:53 pm
By: michael kaplan

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Article 25 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, medical care and necessary social services.”

While the Declaration is not in and of itself US domestic law, it does provide internationally accepted guidelines for the behavior of governments towards their citizenry.

The demolition of homeless encampments on public land by Mayors Rogero and Kincannon seems a violation of the Declaration. I can't think of the demolition of Blackstock during a pandemic as anything but "inhuman or degrading treatment." The city, including the Mayor and members of the Community Development office, have not provided any specific details on the destination of those displaced by the demolitions, nor have they commented on public policy regarding the continued demolition of new encampments.

As the moratorium on COVID-related evictions is scheduled to end, and persons continue to sleep on sidewalks, under the highways, and roam the neighborhoods pushing carts, citizens have a right and need to know what the city's homeless policy is.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who served as the first Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and played an instrumental role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, wrote:

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

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