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Lansing state lawmaker introduces ‘homeless bill of rights’ legislation

headshot of Rep. Emily Dievendorf
Emily Dievendorf
Rep. Emily Dievendorf represents several mid-Michigan municipalities, including parts of Lansing as well as DeWitt and Grand Ledge.

A Lansing state representative has introduced a bill that would further protect the rights of Michiganders experiencing homelessness.

Rep. Emily Dievendorf (D-Lansing), Vice Chair of the Housing Subcommittee in the state House of Representatives, introduced legislation they calla bill of rights for the homeless. Under the proposal, it would be illegal to infringe upon an individual’s rights or deny them access to resources and services on the basis of their housing status.

Those protections includes access to public spaces, the right to vote without a permanent address, the right to privacy and property and access to school for unhoused youth.

Homeless community members would be able to file a lawsuit if those guarantees are violated.

Dievendorf said cities across Michigan are seeing growing numbers of unhoused residents, noting the idea for the proposal came from Lansing advocate Mike Karl. The lawmaker said the state needs to acknowledge the crisis in order to provide relief to its communities.

“If you have an issue with houselessness, if it bothers you and tugs ... at your conscience for that matter, then the response is not to push it away and out of sight,” Dievendorf said. "The response is to commit that much more to getting to the root causes of houselessness."

The bill is part of a broader package aimed at expanding access to housing in Michigan. Separate proposals would enhance tenants rights and combat housing discrimination.

Dievendorf said lawmakers have a bipartisan interest in addressing housing issues in Michigan. They noted the recent budget approved in the legislature allocated millions of dollars to affordable housing projects.

"All of our legislators from across the state know that we need to find solutions to this crisis and are very committed to addressing all of the issues that come up in houselessness,” Dievendorf said.

Dievendorf said they expect the housing bills to move forward together this fall.

"I would like to see these bills all run together to demonstrate our commitment to responding to houselessness and the housing crisis in a holistic, comprehensive way," they said.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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