The night of June 5 near witching hour the Connecticut Legislature passed this landmark, last minute bill before session closed. The bill, SB 896, mimics the Civil Rights Act, protecting the homeless from discrimination in seeking housing or employment. It also grants their free passage in public places such as parks and public transportation without harassment from police.
The bill awaits the signature of Connecticut’s Democratic governor, Dan Malloy. The governor’s track record on combating homelessness implies the bill will be an easy sell. Since assuming office in 2011, he has created the Governor’s Cabinet on Nonprofit Health and Human Services. Just last week Malloy signed into law a bill that increased the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2015.
There has been only one other bill of its kind passed in Rhode Island almost exactly one year ago. However Connecticut, unlike Rhode Island, has a far lower percentage of homeless per population compared to the rest of the United States.
The bill garners a mixed reception in Connecticut. Though in a heavily Democratic state, its advocates far outnumber its opponents. Proponents welcome the bill as key to social justice and a fast track to eradicating homelessness. The bill provides homeless with protection from discrimination, equal employment opportunities, as well as assuring privacy, suffrage and medical care. However, opponents argue the bill misses the boat. The ailments that cause homelessness are often the ailments that incur police intervention and discourage employers.
Bills such as these may not fair as well in states like California where, because of its warm climate, the homeless migrate and flock around city centers. A higher number of the homeless population suffers from mental disorders, making anti-discrimination laws difficult to enforce. For example, it is difficult for police in San Francisco to offer equal treatment to homeless when fully half of the homeless population refuses offers for shelter.
Source: Think Progress