Sunday, October 29, 2017
Historically, Cambridge, MA has been a proactive Human Rights community. The city has declared many protected classes in the city. Among them are Race, Color, Sex, Gender Identity and Disability. A call has been made to add homelessness/homeless to the city's protected classes. Those who are homeless experience discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives. Without a home address, those who are homeless face discrimination in employment, public benefits, and a multitude of other advantages that those with residences more easily attain. Obtaining a photo ID can be insurmountable in some locations due to cost and lack of accessibility to state authorities who issue identification documents.
We know that those who are homeless are more vulnerable to violence. Over half of women who are homeless report already having been in abusive relationships. Once living on the streets, those women join others who are homeless in being vulnerable to random, vicious attacks. The proposed addition to the Cambridge laws would elevate attacks on the homeless to hate crimes.
Other human rights cities might consider the same or similar protections for the homeless. Given the proposed changes to nation's tax code and the resulting reduction in funding for services, we can expect more of our residents to experience homelessness. Municipalities need to protect this particularly vulnerable class and prepare for the rise in the homeless class in coming months and years.