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call for input | Special Procedures

Call for Input: Decriminalization of homelessness and extreme poverty

Issued by

Special Procedures

Last updated

17 October 2023

Closed

Submissions now online (See below)

Purpose: To inform a joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing and of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on efforts made to decriminalize offences frequently associated with homelessness and poverty, such as street vending, begging, staying, sleeping, easting or undertaking any other life sustaining activities in public spaces.
Objectives

In many States persons experiencing homelessness, living in poverty or vulnerability are disproportionately subjected to fines, deportation, arbitrary arrest, or detention for petty offences or conduct that is necessary to survive, such as informal street vending, waste collection, sex work, begging, sleeping, cooking or eating in public places. Persons who are unable to pay fines for petty offences, such as riding public transport without a valid ticket, continue to be imprisoned in many countries. Such sanctions do not only raise human rights concerns; they also congest the criminal justice system with issues that should be better addressed by other measures and policies tackling the root causes of  homelessness or poverty.

The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (A/HRC/21/39), adopted by Human Rights Council resolution 21/11 in September 2012 underline that States should "repeal and reform any laws that criminalize life-sustaining activities in public places, such as sleeping, begging, eating or performing personal hygiene activities". Furthermore States should "review sanctions procedures that require the payment of disproportionate fines by persons living in poverty, especially those related to begging, use of public space and welfare fraud, and consider abolishing prison sentences for non-payment of fines for those unable to pay".

The Guidelines for the Implementation of the Right to Adequate Housing (A/HRC/43/43), specify that "States should prohibit and address discrimination on the ground of homelessness or other housing status and repeal all laws and measures that criminalize or penalize homeless people or behaviour associated with being homeless, such as sleeping or eating in public spaces. The forced eviction of homeless persons from public spaces and the destruction of their personal belongings must be prohibited. Homeless persons should be equally protected from interference with privacy and the home, wherever they are living." They further recommend: "States should provide, within their justice system, alternative procedures for dealing with minor offences of homeless people to help them break the cycle of criminalization, incarceration and homelessness and secure the right to housing."

Similarly in June 2020 the Human Rights Council called in resolution 43/14 on States to "take all measures necessary to eliminate legislation that criminalized homelessness."

Key questions and input sought

The Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing and the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights invite States, local Governments, civil society organizations, National Human Rights Institutions, national associations working with the homeless, and other relevant stakeholders to submit (additional) information concerning the following issues:

  • Laws or regulations that prohibit begging, eating, sleeping, or performing personal hygienic activities in all or certain public places, including their texts and whether they are still in force and enforced.
  • Laws or regulations that allow for petty offences the detention or imprisonment of individuals who are unable to pay the respective fine.
  • Comments whether any of these laws and regulations may violate international human rights law.
  • Information about attempts made or planned to decriminalize street vending, informal business activities, sex work, begging, eating, sleeping or performing personal hygienic activities in public places.
  • Information concerning initiatives to change the response of law enforcement officials and of the criminal justice system from penalization, punishment or detention, towards facilitating social inclusion of persons living in poverty or experiencing homelessness.
  • Measures and services available at national, regional or municipal level to support people living in poverty or in situations of vulnerability from having to resort to begging, sleeping, washing, defecating or performing other hygienic activities in public places, because they lack access to employment, social assistance, adequate housing, public showers and toilets.

Questionnaire in English | Français | Espagnol

Inputs Received

Inputs Received
States

Argentina

Brazil: input | annex-1 | annex-2 | annex-3

Denmark

Ecuador: input | annex-1 | annex-2 | annex-3 | annex-4 | annex-52nd submission

Guyana

Greece

India

Iraq

Ireland

Kyrgyzstan

Lebanon

Lithuania

Mexico: input | annex, 2nd submission

Montenegro

Morocco

North Macedonia

Portugal: input | annex2nd submission

Romania

Russian Federation

Serbia

Switzerland2nd submission

Thailand

Ukraine

United Kingdom

USA

UN entities

UNODC

UN Women

Local and regional Authorities and Associations

Ajuntament de Barcelona

Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Ciudad de México

Ősterreichischer Städtebund / Austrian Association of Cities and Towns, Annex

National Association of Local Authorities in the Republic of Serbia

Ministerio Público de la Defensa de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires / Argentina: input, 2nd submission: input-1 | input-2

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)

Human Rights Institutions, Ombudspersons

Belgian Federal Institute for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Ciudad de México

Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines

Danish Institute for Human Rights

Defensoría del Pueblo de la Nación, Argentina

Human Rights and Equality Institution of Türkiye (HREIT)

Slovak Centre for Human Rights

South Africa Human Rights Commission

Oman Human Rights Commission

Ombudsman for Children in Sweden

CSOs

Akila Dignidad

(RE)Claim joint submission

Abbé Pierre Foundation / France

African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

Ambidekster Klub and Centre for Peace Studies / Croatia

Amman Centre for Human Rights Studies / Jordan

Amnesty International

Arrels Fundación / Spain

Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) / Bangladesh

Belarusian Helsinki Committee

Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe / National Federation for the Homeless in Germany

Campaign to Decriminalize Poverty and Status / Africa

Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and Pivot Legal Society: input | annex

Caritas Spain, Annex

Child In Need Institute (CINI) / India

Conectas Direitos Humanos / Pubpc Defender's Office of the State of São Paulo / Instituto Pro Bono / Brazil

Consortium of Street Children Joint Submission

Consortium for Street Children, second submission

Danish Refugee Council

Deep Poverty Network / Open Space Foundation / Turkey

Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group / UK

ESADE, University Ramon Llull / Barcelona / Europe

Eurasian Coalition for Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity (ECOM)

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and HIV Legal Network

Eurodiaconia

Facts and Norms Institute - update

FEANTSA European Federation of Associations Working with the Homeless

FIACAT

Fines and Fees Justice Centre

Freiheitsfonds / Germany

GAATW joint submission

Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (GFOD)

Global Network of Sex Work Projects / UK

Group of Activists in Treatment (GAT) / Portugal

Human Rights Watch

ILGA World

Infermiers de Rue / Belgium

International Commission of Jurists

Justice Connect, Australia

Kariton Coalition Joint Submission / Philippines

Kazakhstan Parliamentary Development Fund

Kyrgyz Indigo

Maat for Peace, Development, and Human Rights / Egypt

Mawjoudin for Equality / Tunisia

National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) / South Africa

Observatoire pour les Droits des Citoyens Itinérants / France, Annex

Penal Reform International

PPR Project / United Kingdom

Quantic Association / Romania

REDE-H

SOMOS Mulheres joint submission

Sonke Gender Justice

Southern Poverty Law Center / USA: input | annex

Standing Water Nation

The Connection at St. Martin's / UK

Utcajogász Egyesület Streetlawyer Association / Hungary

Women's Legal Centre / South Africa

World Roma Federation

Academia

Adwita Manocha / India

Ambika Satkunanathan / Sri Lanka

American University, Department of Justice Law and Criminology

Dullah Omar Institute/South Africa

Jean Galbraith and Rheem Brooks

Leigh Bursey

Naman Arora / India

Nicholas Blomley

Pia Justensen / Denmark

Sanidhya Mukund and Sanjwala Mukund

Stephanie Sena

Miami Law Human Rights Clinic: input | annex

Tamara Walsh / Australia