Facing homelessness: The Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights
UMD students live in a variety of places: in the residence halls, in on-campus apartments, in rented apartments or houses off-campus. Across Duluth, there are many people who don’t have a secure place to live. Homelessness and poverty are two lurking, intertwined issues the city of Duluth is facing.
The Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights seeks to address that.
“[It is] a set of 12 ordinances that protect basic human rights for all people but especially those in poverty,” Mary Franz, a campus organizer for the student organization MPIRG, said.
The outline of the bill can be found on the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights Facebook page.
Bella Maki, a former social justice task force leader for MPIRG and current vice president of the College Democrats, offered context for the issue.
“The housing market is really, really bad in Duluth,” Maki said. “The prices of housing [have elevated] faster than wages are going up, so people are being displaced.”
According to the 2015 Housing Indicator Report, over 18,000 people in Duluth live in poverty and over 2,000 people live in emergency shelters. The housing crisis has produced a domino effect; those who have been displaced are experiencing more problems.
“People who currently didn’t have a home weren’t allowed to sleep in their car, even if it was legally parked,” Maki explained. “We’re trying to get more warming centers for the winter.”
“People are being asked to move on from Canal Park because it doesn’t look pretty for the city,” Franz said. “They’re [homeless people] being told not to share food, and there aren’t any public restrooms, and you’ll be criminalized if you urinate in public. Their stuff can be searched and seized.”
Student activist organizations like MPIRG have been involved in the pushing of the bill.
“Members of MPIRG attend every Homeless Bill of Rights Coalition meeting and have been active in supporting it before the city council,” Franz said. “It ties into the democratic and economic justice task force.”
The first part of the bill got pushed through city council already, Maki explained. There is still more UMD students can do to help the cause, however.
“Contact your city council members; they’ll be the first ones to vote on it,” Franz explained. “Get involved. The meetings [for the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights Coalition] are every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Dorothy Day House.”
“You can attend city council meetings,” Maki explained.
Even if students choose not to speak at the city council meetings, the presence of students passionate about an issue makes a difference, according to Maki. Students can bring signs for their cause.
“Your presence means a lot,” Maki added.
If UMD students are struggling to make ends meet, Champ’s Cupboard is a free food-shelf offered to all UMD students. At Champ’s Cupboard, located in Kirby Plaza 245, there are a variety of non-perishable food items as well as toiletries and students only need their U-Card to access it.