RI celebrates the Homeless Bill of Rights

PROVIDENCE, RI – Homeless advocates celebrated on the steps of the state capitol Wednesday afternoon as Gov. Lincoln Chafee ceremoniously signed a copy of the Homeless Bill of Rights.

With the wind blowing and music pumping, the homeless and their advocates gathered on the front steps of the capitol as the governor signed an enlarged copy of a bill that formally bans discriminating against the homeless.

Jim Ryczek, head of Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, says the legislation is about changing minds.

"Our goal is not to litigate; our goal is to change behavior and to educate people about a vulnerable class of people," says Ryczek.

The new law not only bans discriminating against the homeless when it comes to housing or hiring, but it also gives them the right to use public sidewalks and parks.

Carl Neitzel lived on the streets and says he's glad it protects the homeless from being hassled by police. "So I think that the police and law enforcement in general should be more empathetic, because anybody can be homeless," he says.

This is the first Homeless Bill of Rights in the nation.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we'd like to hear from you. news@wrni.org.