Cori Bush remembers being unhoused as a young mother.
“I didn’t have a stable place to cook a meal, or shower, wash my clothes, safely rest, or make formula for my newborn,” she said in a press conference Wednesday. “I lived in a constant state of anxiety. I never imagined I would become unhoused. The feeling that it could happen again has stayed with me even until this day.”
This week, Bush announced that she is introducing a resolution with the goal of “ending the unhoused crisis by 2025.” The resolution declares homelessness a public health emergency, and creates an “unhoused bill of rights,” affirming that those without secure housing have the same rights to healthcare, safety, and food as the rest of the population.
“I sit here today as a formerly unhoused Congress member,” Bush said. “I am outraged. There is no reason we can fund wars and weapons but we can’t fund universal housing and healthcare.”
She introduces this resolution as the federal eviction moratorium is due to expire on July 31st. This will leave about 150,000 Missourians facing the threat of eviction this week, according to Lee Camp of ArchCity Defenders, who also spoke at the virtual press conference. There are currently between 580,000 and 1,500,000 unhoused individuals in the United States. Black people make up 40% of that population, as compared to 13% of the general population.
And as temperatures rise in St. Louis and the eviction moratorium lifts, that number is set to increase.
“We’ve seen over 8,500 evictions filed here in our city,” Camp added. “And when evictions happen, homelessness will occur. It is crucial that our lawmakers prioritize those who will be asked to really bear the impact of this.”
The unhoused bill of rights resolution supports unprecedented federal funding levels for state and local governments to provide 24-hour support for unhoused people, including transitional housing programs, supportive services, public restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and water fountains in coordination with grassroots and community-led organizations.
Some of those local organizations here in St. Louis have supported the resolution. Tent Mission STL, a grassroots group that provides food, housing and employment aid to people living in tent encampments in St. Louis, released a statement saying that “the time for the federal government to extend a hand to local communities who have always taken up the work of supporting their unhoused residents is long overdue.”
Anthony D’Agostino, CEO of St. Patrick Center, agreed. “People experiencing homelessness are our neighbors and deserve respect, care and rights. Representative Bush is promoting legislation and funding that provides the resources and services necessary to transform lives and improve our neighborhoods.”
Current laws often criminalize homelessness, by arresting individuals for loitering or sleeping in public places. However, according to Eric Tars of the National Homeless Law Center, “far from solving homelessness, criminalization actually prolongs it.”
“We need this now,” Tars said, “So we can make sure we end homelessness the right way—through housing, not handcuffs”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that "We’ve seen over 85,000 evictions filed here in our city."