Has anyone considered a taxpayer bill of rights to keep the hands of the do gooders out of our pockets? I think not. Why is Duluth becoming such a utopia for those that don’t want to work or contribute? Because they can..and your elected officials make it happen..again, and again.

Duluth rally highlights effort for Homeless Bill of Rights
By John Lundy on Dec 5, 2016 at 8:35 p.m.

T12.05.2016 -- Steve Kuchera -- 1206.N.DNT.HomelessC1 -- Supporters of a city homeless person’s bill of rights pause in the Duluth Civic Center on their march to city hall on Monday. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

T12.05.2016 — Steve Kuchera — 1206.N.DNT.HomelessC1 — Supporters of a city homeless person’s bill of rights pause in the Duluth Civic Center on their march to city hall on Monday. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

It wasn’t a good welcome to Duluth, Marisol Sanchez said.

The 18-year-old and her fiance drove here from California, she said, arriving in Duluth with no money left. About a month and a half ago they were in their car, spending the night outside of Wade Stadium, when police arrived.
“They circled around us,” she said. “And instead of telling us what we could do, what kind of homeless shelters we could go to, they told us to go to Motel 6 when we didn’t even have money. … The police officers were just being really rude.”

With the help of Loaves & Fishes, the Catholic worker community in Duluth, they found shelter soon after and through hard work were able to move into their own apartment a week ago.

But Sanchez was moved to volunteer with Loaves & Fishes, and she shared her experiences during a rally on Monday on the main floor of City Hall intended by organizers to call attention to a Homeless Bill of Rights for Duluth.

The bill of rights, which would spell out rights of the homeless in Duluth to such things as the right to rest in public spaces, to occupy a legally parked vehicle and to have 24-hour access to “basic hygiene facilities,” actually has been in the works for nearly three years. The Duluth City Council on Jan. 13, 2014, passed an ordinance that, among other things, directed the city’s Human Rights Commission to draft language for an ordinance establishing homeless rights as part of city code.

Monday’s rally, organized by advocates for the homeless, was designed to call attention to the fact that no such ordinance is yet on the books.

The rally followed a march in the cold rain by about 30 advocates from CHUM to City Hall. It preceded a City Council committee of the whole meeting in which moving forward on the bill of rights ordinance was the sole item on the agenda.

But there isn’t an ordinance yet, 2nd District Councilor Joel Sipress explained as he addressed the rally ahead of that meeting.

“What we’re doing today is challenging this community to live up to its values,” Sipress said. “It’s been a long time coming, and we still have a little ways to go.”

The group, now larger, marched up the two flights of stairs to council chambers, boisterously finishing a chorus of “Standing for my dignity, I’m gonna let it shine,” just as Council President Zack Filipovich called the meeting to order. The group then filed in and filled the audience section of the chamber, listening in silence as six representatives spoke on their behalf.

Sipress and 3rd District Councilor Em Westerlund, who are spearheading the current council effort, said the process of reorganizing the city’s Human Rights Commission has delayed movement toward an ordinance. But Sipress said he hopes they’ll have a “working draft” of an ordinance ready for the commission in January. After the commission acts, the ordinance would go to the council for final approval. He referred to the 11-point bill of rights in its current form as principles from which the actual language of an ordinance could be formed.

Although the eight council members present all voiced support for the effort, they raised several questions, particularly about the feasibility of 24-hour access to basic hygiene facilities.

Joel Kilgour of Loaves & Fishes said he realized progress toward that aim could be incremental.

“Ultimately our goal is to get hygiene facilities with running water and possibly showers,” Kilgour said. “But there are folks tonight who are going to have to figure out where they’re going to go to the bathroom.”

The Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights in its present form:

The right to use and move freely in public spaces, without discrimination or arbitrary time limits
The right to rest in public spaces and protect oneself from elements in a non-obstructive manner
The right to eat, share or accept food in public spaces
The right to occupy a legally parked motor vehicle
The right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in public spaces
The right to equal treatment by city staff and departments
The right to protection from disclosure of personal information without consent
The right to protection from discrimination in housing and employment
The right to 24-hour access to basic hygiene facilities
The right to choose whether or not to utilize emergency shelter
The right to speak with an advocate or street outreach worker when questioned by police

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