March 4, 2019 Press release, Whatcom Human Rights Task Force
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Homelessness is a human rights issue
Whatcom Human Rights Task Force calls on local officials and agencies to take consistent and deliberate action to address the homelessness crisis in Whatcom County now
Whatcom Human Rights Task Force PO Box 653, Bellingham WA, 98225 (360) 389-3898
Bellingham, WA, Monday, March 4, 2019
Today members of the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force (WHRTF) issued and published an open letter to local officials throughout Whatcom County declaring that homelessness is a human rights issue. The Task Force is also calling on officials and affiliated agencies to address this humanitarian crisis locally with meaningful and consistent action and planning.
With unprecedented snow and cold weather conditions, enormous pressure has been put on those without shelter who are at risk of serious illness or death in at or below freezing temperatures. Recent statistics put the number of unhoused in Whatcom County at somewhere between 850-3000 including over 500 children and the Task Force is expressing public concern over this sizeable and vulnerable population.
Because housing is a human right, codified in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, homelessness is, therefore, a human rights issue. And, because it is clear that there is an urgent need for housing locally, the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force has formed a Housing Committee to address the systemic problems that create homelessness locally and will convene a summit in the spring with organizations and individuals who are currently providing and receiving services and support around this issue.
In the immediate term, the WHRTF is calling on local officials and agencies to take immediate steps to create emergency services and shelter for all who are currently unhoused. There is an urgent need for greater capacity to serve homeless people in the County, particularly individuals and families who do not fit into the narrow categories that now define who is allowed to have access to safe spaces and resources. This includes providing shelter for male-female couples as well as individuals who are gender non-binary, accompanied by pets and service animals, and those who are unable or unwilling to take shelter with religious institutions due to traumatic experiences they have had in that context, including but not limited to sexual abuse.
The Task Force asks that officials join a systemic and collaborative effort along with the many groups working locally who are investing energy, resources, and efforts into finding solutions that serve all equitably. The health and welfare of our entire community depends on this effort because we belong, ultimately, to the same human family.
About the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force:
The mission of the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force is to promote and protect the rights of the human family. WHRTF works to ensure an individual’s right to be treated with dignity and to live without fear of violence, intimidation, or discrimination based on group identification or personal characteristics. Such groups include, but are not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation (gender expression/identity), religion, age, class, disability, veteran/military status, political opinion or other arbitrarily assigned status.