The Still Unmet Promise of Universal Basic Human Rights

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

Tomorrow, December 10th, is Human Rights Day. It marks the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Care for the Homeless joins in recognizing the fundamental human rights proclaimed in that document in 1948 including the right to housing.
When the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it was a vow by the community of nations still standing in the shadow of the horrors of World War II. It was drafted initially by an 18 member international “Drafting” Committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and eventually by a committee composed of delegations from 50 nations. When it was overwhelmingly adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, eight nations abstained but not a single country voted in opposition.

The Declaration is based on the inherent dignity and equality of all people and the “inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. Among those fundamental human rights enumerated, the Declaration recognizes: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Today that fundamental human right to food, clothing, housing, medical care, social services and security are still a daily struggle for nearly 59,000 New Yorkers who will sleep in city homeless shelters tonight, and more than 3,000 who sleep rough on the streets on any given day. More than 4 out of ten of our neighbors experiencing homelessness in shelters or on the streets are children.
Even as we celebrate the commitment and positive actions taken by the Mayor and City Council to prevent and fight homelessness, CFH will pause tomorrow to recognize how much more we need to do. We believe modern day homelessness in the U.S. and New York City was created by public policy choices and that better policies can end it. Please join with us in advocating for those policies we know can work to prevent, fight and end homelessness as we know it.

And as we fight for those fundamental values officially adopted out in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Care for the Homeless will continue providing critical medical and social services to many thousands of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.       

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