Homeless Person’s Rights

On June 21, Rhode Island made history by becoming the first state in the country to adopt a “Homeless Bill of Rights.”  The Bill prohibits healthcare workers, employers, landlords as well as the police from treating homeless people unfairly because of their housing status. 

Initially some were concerned that the proposal could burden local governments and police.  However, the bill was recently edited in order to allay those fears.  Instructively, Middletown Police Chief Anthony Pesare noted that these concerns are overblown. 

The Bill flies in the face of a long stretch where towns and states have been outlawing behavior associated with homelessness, like loitering.  The Bill provides homeless people with a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their personal belongings. 

Employers should be careful to not turn people away for employment because of their status as a homeless person.   Likewise, prospective employees should be aware that they cannot be turned away for a job or promotion based on their status as a homeless person.  As this is the first legislation of this nature in the country, employers should tread carefully until more is known about the Bill and how courts will interpret it.