GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A state lawmaker has introduced new legislation that would strengthen legal protections for people experiencing homelessness.

The bill, proposed by State Rep. Emily Dievendorf, D-Lansing, would establish a “bill of rights for the homeless.” 

“Many individuals are homeless as a result of economic hardship, a severe shortage of safe and affordable housing and a shrinking social safety net,” Dievendorf wrote in the bill’s text. “It is the intent of this act to lessen the adverse effects and conditions caused by the lack of a residence or a home.”

Through the legislation, an individual experiencing homelessness would have the following rights protected:

  • To use and move freely in public spaces including, public sidewalks, public parks, public transportation and public buildings
  • To equal treatment by all state and municipal agencies
  • To freedom from discrimination in employment due to the lack of a permanent mailing address
  • To emergency medical care without discrimination
  • To vote, register to vote, and receive documentation necessary to prove identity for voting without discrimination
  • Protection from disclosing an individual’s records or information that was provided to a homeless shelter or service provider without the appropriate authority.
  • Privacy in personal property to the same extent as personal property in a permanent residence.
  • To be enrolled in school without delay or discrimination because of housing status.

If any of the rights are violated, the legislation would allow a person experiencing homelessness to file a civil lawsuit.

One downtown Grand Rapids business owner and homeless advocate said she was excited to see the Bill of Rights introduced.

“If you’re down here a lot you can see how devastating it is to be out here and how soul-crushing it is and people do get frustrated because they see all this development, they see all this money and these people having fun, and what about them?” said Tami Vandenberg, owner of The Pyramid Scheme and The Meanwhile.

The bill has been referred to the Economic Development and Small Business Committee.