SPRINGFIELD - Thus far, Rhode Island is the only state that has granted legal status protection for homeless persons, but Illinois is following closely to become the second. California and Connecticut are considering the idea, but have not passed it into law.
With State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch's (D-Chicago) legisation that passed the House Friday, persons who have run onto hard financial times or deal with a mental or emotional situations that prevent them from a stable housing situation would be added to the list of those protected from discrimination, based on their housing status. The bill also allows persons to sue if they believe their rights were denied based on their housing status.
With SB 1210, homeless persons will have the following rights protected by Illinois law:
(1) the right to use and move freely in public spaces, including but not limited to public sidewalks, public parks, public transportation, and public buildings, in the same manner as any other person and without discrimination on the basis of his or her housing status;
(2) the right to equal treatment by all State and municipal agencies, without discrimination on the basis of housing status;
(3) the right not to face discrimination while maintaining employment due to his or her lack of permanent mailing address, or his or her mailing address being that of a shelter or social service provider;
(4) the right to emergency medical care free from discrimination based on his or her housing status;
(5) the right to vote, register to vote, and receive documentation necessary to prove identity for voting without discrimination due to his or her housing status;
(6) the right to protection from disclosure of his or her records and information provided to homeless shelters and service providers to State, municipal, and private entities without appropriate legal authority; and the right to confidentiality of personal records and information in accordance with all limitations on disclosure established by the federal Homeless Management Information Systems, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and the federal Violence Against Women Act;
(7) the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her personal property to the same extent as personal property in a permanent residence.
Lawmakers voiced concerned about the legality of voter registration and how a person could be within a certain precinct for the length of time required before voting in that locality if they had no stable address to list on voter registration. Rep. Welch said no voter laws were changed with the Bill of Rights for Homeless.
The bill was amended in the House, so it will be headed back to the Senate for a consensus vote, presumedly before the end of the session on May 31st. The vote in the House was as follows: