Jayapal: “How can we promise life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness, when so many Americans lack access to the most basic needs to survive, let alone thrive?
Jayapal: “There’s one fundamental truth that must guide our policies on homelessness & housing. Housing is a human right.”
[WASHINGTON, DC] — U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), today stood with fellow CPC members, U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), as well as advocates from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, People’s Action, and Center for Popular Democracy, to launch the People’s Housing platform—a groundbreaking, progressive housing framework that declares housing as a fundamental human right. At today’s press conference, Jayapal announced her intention to introduce the Housing is a Human Right Act next month. Jayapal’s remarks at the press conference, as prepared, are available below.
Across the country, millions of families do not have access to safe, decent and affordable housing – fueling life- and health-threatening conditions. As of January 2018, the state of Washington had an estimated 22,304 people experiencing some form of homelessness on any given day. 39,1278 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year, 2,123 of those students were unsheltered.
This coalition of lawmakers have called on Congress to make reforming federal housing policy a top priority. Together they have introduced, or plan to introduce, a suite of legislation to address some of America’s most vexing housing challenges, such as a steady decline in available public housing, skyrocketing rents in communities large and small, undersupply of affordable housing, and hundreds of thousands of people experiencing homelessness every day.
“Tonight, in the United States of America, the wealthiest nation on earth, more than 500,000 people, including 100,000 children, will experience homelessness. This is why we call this situation a crisis. The experience of homelessness is not a moral failure of individuals, but a structural failing on the part of a society that has failed, again and again, to make the needs of the most vulnerable – including safe and affordable housing – a priority,” said Jayapal. “There’s one fundamental truth that must guide our policies on homelessness and housing: Housing is a human right. Legislation that seeks to change this must be rooted in the belief that all humans have the right to basic necessities – a bed to sleep in and a roof over their head. As the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I am so proud of all the work we are doing to improve access to affordable housing and address homelessness. Our legislative package is rooted in an understanding that homelessness has multi-pronged solutions, and that creating and expanding affordable housing must be foremost among them.”
“Everyone living in the United States should have safe, accessible, sustainable, and permanently affordable housing. Right now, our country falls woefully short of delivering on this promise. The housing and homelessness crises are the direct and predictable result of treating housing as a commodity rather than a human right. This package of legislation sets a new standard for progressive housing policy, taking major strides towards systemic change. For the first time in a century, legislators are taking action to address the scale of the housing crisis and prioritize people’s needs over corporations’ profits. The legislative champions behind the People’s Housing Platform have listened to movement demands and followed the leadership of directly impacted people,” said Tara Raghuveer, director of the Homes Guarantee campaign at People’s Action.
“Our country has a proud tradition of neighbors coming together to advocate for fair housing. Today, this movement has come to the House of Representatives. The People’s Housing Platform would end homelessness and make sure that housing is affordable for all. This bold, collaborative proposal is the best path forward for our housing movements,” said Dianne Enriquez, co-director, community dignity campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy.
“Our nation is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that most severely impacts America’s lowest-income seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, families with children, and other individuals who struggle to afford to keep a roof over their heads or who have no home at all,” stated Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. “Robust investments in proven solutions, like those proposed by Representatives Pressley, Omar, Tlaib, Blumenauer, Ocasio-Cortez, Garcia, and Jayapal, are needed to solve the housing crisis. Our country can choose to end homelessness and housing poverty – we have the data, the solutions, and the resources. We lack only the political will to fund solutions at the scale necessary. NLIHC stands ready to work with these congressional champions and others to enact bold legislation to end homelessness and housing poverty once and for all.”
Remarks as prepared for U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal
Good afternoon, everyone!
I’m delighted to be here today, joined by colleagues and advocates, to talk about a new vision for addressing America’s housing and homelessness crisis.
Tonight, in the United States of America, the wealthiest nation on earth, more than 500,000 people will experience homelessness. More than 100,000 children will experience homelessness on any given night. And imagine this: Even if you are a full-time minimum wage worker, you simply cannot afford a two-bedroom rental anywhere—anywhere.
That is why we call this situation a crisis. How can we promise life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, when so many Americans lack access to the most basic needs to survive, let alone thrive?
There’s one fundamental truth that must guide our policies on homelessness and housing. Housing is a human right.
The experience of homelessness is not a moral failure of individuals, but a structural failing on the part of a society that has failed, again and again, to make the needs of our most vulnerable—including safe and affordable housing—a priority. Legislation that seeks to change this situation must be rooted in the belief that all humans have the right to the basic necessities, including a bed to sleep in and a roof over their head. Research shows that addressing housing FIRST is the most effective way we can address homelessness.
As the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I am so proud of all the work we are doing to improve access to affordable housing and address homelessness. I want to thank our friends at the Center for Popular Democracy, People’s Action and the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
Next month, I’ll be introducing the Housing is a Human Right Act to ensure that homelessness services are available to all who need them. My bill cracks down on those who profit from displacement, and ensures the federal government is putting people at the center of its work and prioritizing housing over handcuffs. Importantly, it also reaffirms that every human person has innate human rights, no matter where you sleep—including the right to vote and participate in our democracy.
My legislation is just one part of this important progressive platform. We progressives know that what it means to be progressive is to be first to the best ideas, and then to help create the movement to move those ideas into being. Today, you will hear from colleagues about a series of innovative and urgent proposals to help us create housing for all.
Our progressive platform recognizes that anyone can experience homelessness, and homelessness looks like many things. It’s tents underneath an urban highway overpass, yes, but it is also the community college student sleeping in her car, the family sleeping three to a bed, toggling back and forth between motels and friends’ homes. Homelessness happens to Americans in rural, suburban and urban areas, to runaway youth, to trafficking survivors and— overwhelmingly—to black, brown and Native communities who face historic, systemic injustice when it comes to housing security.
Our legislative package is rooted in an understanding that homelessness has multi-pronged solutions; creating and expanding affordable housing must be foremost among them. We must protect tenants’ rights and expand the development of affordable housing. We must penalize those who profit from housing displacement and end the criminalization of people experiencing homelessness.
And we must give those experiencing housing instability a voice in the process—expanding their access to counsel, making sure they can vote, giving them seats at the table where decisions are made, because when you are affected by the housing system you are an expert on the housing system.
The uncomfortable truth is that homelessness is a problem WE created. But that means that WE can fix it. It is going to take courage. There will always be those who say something is too ambitious or too risky. It is not comfortable to stare down the reality of poverty, and it is so easy to close our eyes to this kind of suffering. But we must see in the most vulnerable our common, shared humanity so that EVERYONE can have a place they call home, to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
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