July 31, 2023

Congresswoman Bush Re-Introduces Unhoused Bill of Rights

Reintroduction comes two years after Bush started 5-day demonstration on Capitol steps to successfully extend eviction moratorium

Washington D.C. (July 28, 2023) — Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) reintroduced the Unhoused Bill of Rights, a resolution which declares unalienable rights for unhoused persons and provides solutions for the federal government to permanently end the crisis by 2027. This legislation responds to the bleak post-Covid economic reality faced by millions of low-income renters, where rising housing costs continue to rapidly outpace wages and force people to live on the streets. 


The Unhoused Bill of Rights provides a comprehensive, intersectional analysis of the multitude of issues faced by our unhoused neighbors—particularly their criminalization, discrimination, dehumanization, and mistreatment by law enforcement, private businesses, and housed persons. This bill describes the fundamental human rights that must be enforced to protect individuals who live without homes. To end the unhoused crisis, this legislation calls for rigorous federal investments into homeless assistance programs, affordable housing initiatives, and wraparound services that keep people permanently housed. 


“My children and I have personally experienced the trauma, stress, stigma and pain that comes with being unhoused. Our veterans, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, and our youth are disproportionately at risk of becoming unhoused. Being able to afford a safe place to live is a human right that has been undermined by intentional policy decisions,” said Congresswoman Bush. “That is why, as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness, I am proud to reintroduce the Unhoused Bill of Rights, legislation that commits the federal government to addressing the root of our nation’s housing crisis once and for all. We have the power and money to end the unhoused crisis, we just need the will to reorient Congressional priorities.”


A copy of the legislation can be found HERE. A copy of the one-pager can be found HERE.


This resolution is cosponsored by Representatives Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-00), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), André Carson (IN-07), Danny Davis (IL-07), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Greg Casar (TX-35), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14).


Specifically this legislation:

  • Provides a blueprint for the federal government to permanently end the unhoused crisis by 2027 by drastically increasing the affordable housing stock, providing universal housing vouchers, and bolstering funding to federal housing programs, shelters, transitional and permanent housing programs, social services, and permanent emergency rental assistance;

  • Calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the unhoused crisis a public health emergency;

  • Protects unhoused individuals from the violation of their fundamental human rights to housing, health care, livable wages, education, employment opportunities, access to public facilities, and freedom from harassment by law enforcement, private businesses, property owners, and housed residents;

  • Supports historic federal funding levels for state and local governments to provide 24-hour support for unhoused people, including: shelters, transitional housing programs, supportive services, public restrooms, hand-washing stations, showers, laundry facilities, and water fountains in coordination with grassroots and community-led organizations;

  • Develops holistic, health-based, and non-carceral solutions to the unhoused crisis in coordination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), community-led organizations, and unhoused advocates from a health-based approach that addresses both the unhoused and public health crises.


The Unhoused Bill of Rights is endorsed by: National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Coalition for the Homeless, National Homelessness Law Center, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Human Rights Watch, Social Security Works, National Housing Law Project, ArchCity Defenders, St. Louis Housing Authority, St. Louis Public Schools Students-In-Transition Office, Action STL, Funders Together to End Homelessness, H.O.M.E.S. Campaign, Focus On Rights, Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association, Haven House Services, Inc., Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, Volunteers of America, Northern California-Northern Nevada, New Jersey Tenants Organization, SecondMuse, Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee, Western Regional Advocacy Project, Sisters of the Road, Sacramento Area Black Caucus, Southeast Village Neighborhood Association, Futuretrans, Housing 4 the Homeless, At Jacob's Well, Inc., House the Homeless, Inc., Black Parallel School Board, JustFix, Racism and Criminal Justice Reform Group, Metro St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council, Wellspring Women's Center, California Democratic Renters Council, Hearts for Homeless, Berkeley NAACP, Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, Physicians for Social Responsibility Sacramento, Interfaith Committee on Latin America, and the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing.

“Housing is a human right and bold solutions – including universal rental assistance, preservation and expansion of public housing, investments in the national Housing Trust Fund, robust and enforced tenant protections – are necessary to end homelessness,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Homelessness is one of our country’s most urgent, tragic and solvable crises, and Congress must use every opportunity to advance the policy solutions needed to end it. I applaud Congresswoman Bush for helping to build the political will necessary to end this entirely preventable crisis.”


“NAEH appreciates the inspirational leadership of Representative Cori Bush and welcomes the reintroduction of the comprehensive Unhoused Bill of Rights. This legislation lays out the causes and consequences of homelessness, includes recommendations for funding evidence-based solutions and programs, and fearlessly challenges those who would criminalize homelessness,” says John Threlkeld, Advocate for the National Alliance to End Homelessness.


“Human Rights Watch applauds the Unhoused Bill of Rights, which makes clear that housing is a human right,” says Olivia Ensign, Senior Advocate and Researcher at the US Program of Human Rights Watch. “We must move away from a system that focuses on criminalization and removal of unhoused community members in favor of a system that addresses the structural causes of houselessness and economic inequality.”


“Each month our agency hears new stories of discrimination or harassment faced by unhoused individuals in St. Louis. We need a federal Unhoused Bill of Rights to protect our vulnerable neighbors by providing safe, accessible, affordable, and fair housing for all Americans,” says Keith Rose, director of LGBTQ initiatives for the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council.


“The National Coalition for the Homeless enthusiastically supports the Unhoused Bill of Rights, introduced by Representative Bush. NCH fundamentally believes in the rights outlined in the legislation, which enforces people experiencing homelessness are people. The inability to find housing should not be used as an opportunity to oppress people,” says Donald H. Whitehead Jr., Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.


“In St. Louis, there are many examples of the dual crises of increasing housing insecurity and the criminalization of our unhoused neighbors. We support Representative Bush's bill of rights for our unhoused neighbors and her commitment to meeting their needs comprehensively using all available federal resources,” says Christopher Wilcox, Director of Policy & Advocacy at A Red Circle.


“We recognize that homelessness affects all folks without a place to call their home, including migrants who are fleeing their home because of state-related violence, indirectly due to United States foreign policy. Houselessness affects our communities at intersections, no one without a home now harms all people and we applaud Congresswoman Cori Bush for her efforts to address this unhoused crisis,” says Juan Narvaez, Co-Director of Interfaith Committee on Latin America.


“Unhoused people are human beings worthy of dignity and respect. They are victims of the unconscionably high rents in this country. They are not criminals, and deserve this bill of rights,” says Matt Shapiro, President of the New Jersey Tenants Union.


“The Unhoused Bill of Rights is direly needed to start solving homelessness. The answer is not sweeping unhoused people from visibility, but to provide adequate, affordable, and supportive housing,” says Paula Lomazzi, Executive Director of the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee.


During her tenure in Congress, Congresswoman Bush has been a fierce advocate for affordable housing and the unhoused community. This Congress, she joined her fellow Co-Chairs to re-establish the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness—a caucus dedicated to educating members of Congress and their staff on the complex issues faced by unhoused persons. As Co-Chair, Congresswoman Bush led over 100 of her colleagues in a letter to the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee emphasizing the need for bold federal investments in affordable housing initiatives and homeless assistance programs in Fiscal Year 24.


In February this year, Congresswoman Bush joined Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) in sending letters to Greystar Real Estate and the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) to ensure renters’ rights are being protected during the tenant screening process. By ensuring the background check system provides accurate information that complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), tenant screening companies can remove barriers to affordable housing. In addition to the Unhoused Bill of Rights, the Congresswoman introduced the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Improvement Act to bolster renters’ access to financial assistance during the pandemic. In August 2021, Congresswoman Bush led several of her fellow members of Congress in a 5-day demonstration on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to extend the federal eviction moratorium in the midst of a deadly pandemic.