The Next Amendment to the constitution of the United States can be the right to shelter.
Our Goal: To fund projects, build products, and deliver research that will kick-start a national conversation on a right to shelter.
Q & A
What is the ultimate goal of the Next Amendment?
A national right to shelter won't be added to the Constitution unless we can show that a right to shelter can be executed cheaply, humanely and efficiently. Eventually a national right to shelter could be added to the Constitution as the 28th amendment. Here is example language for a right to shelter amendment:
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that a right to shelter be extended by the Constitution to United States citizens.
The right of citizens of the United States to individual shelter shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state.
The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
What is a right to shelter?
That the state has the responsibility to extend shelter from the elements to all citizens.
What is a ‘Housing First’ model for combating homelessness?
The below article lays out the core ideas behind housing first.
Essentially, the idea is that housing and/or shelter should be provided not as an incentive for good behavior but as a baseline entitlement for a citizen.
What are some examples of US cities exploring the housing first model?
Oakland is an example of a US city exploring housing first with it's Tuff Shed program:
What is the difference between affordable housing and a right to shelter mean?
A right to shelter would be different to affordable housing, which focuses on long term homes for individuals and families at a reasonable cost in expensive, crowded urban areas. A right to shelter on the other hand focuses only on shelter from the elements and a consistent location to store minimal belongings. Ultimately it is simply about raising the lowest that a citizen can fall to be above living on the streets.
Learning about what works and is efficient, cost-effective and humane is why small-city-trials and studies are a part of this movement.
How could a right to shelter work?
The above article on Helsinki's work gives a sense of how one city can implement housing first and end homelessness as the lowest to which a citizen can fall.
Here's a loose idea on how a movement for a right to shelter could process:
Trial a right to shelter in 5 small cities in the US all with small homelessness populations.
Work with conservative think tanks on how to cheaply and efficiently implement a right to shelter nationally.
Use the information gathered from trials and proposals from think-tanks on the right to pass a right to shelter in a state constitution.
Repeat 1-3 on an expanding scale until there is enough data and best practices that voters and lawmakers are comfortable to vote for a right to shelter to be added to the US Constitution.
Why work with conservative think-tanks and policymakers on a right to shelter? Isn’t a right to shelter quite a liberal idea?
Most new entitlements (which this would be - entitling all citizens to shelter) are proposed and designed and implemented by the same people.
And often they are opposed by the same people.
By sharing the responsibility for this issue across the political spectrum from day 1, a right to shelter could be provided in a long-lasting, consensus and data-driven, humane, cost-efficient way.
What is ‘These Sleepless Nights’ Inspired by Evicted?
Inspired by Matthew Desmond s masterpiece on eviction in America 'Evicted', the Next Amendment commissioned Gabo Arora to create a piece that drew attention to the issues surrounding eviction and homelessness.
What about mental health, anti social behavior, drug and alcohol abuse - aren’t those important to the movement on a right to shelter?
A key part of a right to shelter would be ‘Housing First’. Housing first simply means what it sounds like : housing first, not second, third or fourth : shelter from the elements as a right and not as an incentive for good behavior.
The stability that comes from housing first may or may not help with mental health, sobriety and more socially acceptable behavior - for example many homeless people drink themselves asleep because it's so painful to sleep on the pavement. The constant harassment that comes from living on the streets contributes to mental instability.
BUT ultimately, curing all those ills is not what a right to shelter is about.
While all these complex issues are connected, the way we’re doing it now, seeking to resolve mental illness, sobriety and anti-social behavior first as an incentive for housing doesn't seem to be working.
Housing first simply focuses on one part of the very complex puzzle : providing shelter to all citizens and raising the lowest that a citizen can fall.
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