Document Type



This article examines an emerging movement so far unexplored by legal scholarship: the proposal and, in some states, the enactment of a Homeless Bill of Rights. This article presents these new laws as a lens to re-examine storied debates over positive and social welfare rights. Homeless bills of rights also present a compelling opportunity to re-examine rights-based theories in the context of social movement scholarship. Specifically, could these laws be understood as part of a new “rights revolution”? What conditions might influence the impact of these new laws on the individual rights of the homeless or the housed? On American rights culture and consciousness? The article surveys current efforts to advance homeless bills of rights across nine states and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and evaluates these case studies from a social movement perspective. Ultimately, the article predicts that these new laws are more likely to have an incremental social and normative impact than an immediate legal impact. Even so, homeless bills of rights are a critical, if slight, step to advance the rights of one of the most vulnerable segments of contemporary society. Perhaps as significantly, these new laws present an opportunity for housed Americans to confront our collective, deeply-rooted biases against the homeless.