Decriminalization of homelessness and extreme poverty: Submission to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Extreme Poverty and the Right to Adequate Housing

This submission is prepared by Amnesty International in response to the call for input by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing and the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights on efforts made to decriminalize offences frequently associated with homelessness and poverty. Specifically, this submission highlights the different ways in which laws criminalizing “vagrancy”, “loitering” and “begging” among other acts associated with homelessness and poverty, disproportionately impact some of the most marginalized in society thus further entrenching patterns of poverty, and racial and gender injustices. The submission calls for states not only to repeal such laws but also to refrain from using the criminal law unless in instances where it is strictly necessary and proportionate to protect a legitimate public interest and to use imprisonment only as a measure of last resort. It also recommends states to invest in long term measures and guarantee the rights to health, an adequate standard of living, housing and social security for all as a measure to tackle the overrepresentation of people living in poverty in criminal justice systems.

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