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Local News

Homeless Rights Bill Passes Committee

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File photo of homeless people. (credit: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/GettyImages)

File photo of homeless people. (credit: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/GettyImages)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A bill establishing a bill of rights for the state’s homeless population continued to progress Tuesday through the Connecticut General Assembly.

Some lawmakers, however, questioned whether the legislation is necessary.

The bill, which passed the Planning and Development Committee on a 12-7 vote, spells out how each homeless person has the right to move freely in public spaces, have equal employment opportunities, receive emergency medical care, and the ability to register to vote and vote. The bill also lists their right to a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding their private property, and to receive equal treatment by state and local government agencies.

New Fairfield Rep. Richard Smith said homeless individuals already have those rights and questioned the need for the bill.

“If they were without these rights, perhaps we would need to look at it,” said Smith, a Republican.

Sen. Steve Cassano, a Democrat from Manchester and a former mayor, said he’s ambivalent about the bill. He recalled as a mayor he was approached by a group of skateboarders who wanted a bill of rights. Cassano said he explained to them about how their rights were already covered by the original Bill of Rights.

“I’m not sure how far it’s going to go,” he said of the Connecticut bill’s fate. The legislation moves to the Senate for further action.

Proponents say there’s a need for this legislation because the homeless are ostracized and alienated, and often have their constitutional rights ignored.

“Fifteen years into my ministry I’ve heard countless stories of homeless people encountering barriers to voting and registering to vote, receiving emergency medical care, obtaining employment, using public spaces, protecting personal property and information and, not surprisingly, gaining access to affordable housing,” Rev. Josh Pawelek, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society in East in Manchester, said in written testimony.

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