UN Rapporteur: Pine Ridge Housing Worst in US

US spent $1 trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while ignoring abysmal housing on Pine Ridge and widespread homelessness in US

Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo 1 and 2: Lakotas testify on housing at Pine Ridge. Courtesy UN Photo 2: Homeless by railroad tracks in Texas by Brenda Norrell

Overcrowding in housing on Pine Ridge Indian land in South Dakota was described as the worst viewed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik, during a tour of US housing. The lack of fresh food and the lack of public transportation was also included in the report on Pine Ridge.

"During the mission, the Special Rapporteur observed many families living in subsidized housing units in conditions of severe overcrowding. This was particularly the case amongst immigrant families in Los Angeles, and most strikingly on Pine Ridge Native American Reservation, where it was described as commonplace to have three to four families living in a three-bedroom house. The conditions in the houses on the Reservation were the worst seen by the Special Rapporteur during her mission, evidence of the urgent and severe need for additional subsidized housing units there," states the report.

The Special Rapporteur visited Washington DC, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Pine Ridge Reservation, Los Angeles and Pacoima, California.

Rolnik is issuing a report and making recommendations in Geneva on Friday.

March 4, 2010
Contact: Phil Wider - 212.253.1710, ext 301, phil@nesri.org
UN Expert to Report on Affordable Housing Crisis in US
NEW YORK - As part of the current session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday, March 5, Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, will present the official report of her office’s recent U.S. mission. The report, entitled: “Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Including the Right to Development,” highlights the Special Rapporteur’s findings on the mission and her recommendations to the U.S. government.

In partnership with community groups, the U.S. mission was coordinated by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. During her visit, which took place from October 22nd to November 8th, 2009, the Special Rapporteur visited six cities and focused on the foreclosure crisis, growing homelessness, and the severe lack of affordable housing, including the demolition of public housing and the under-funding of Section 8 based housing.

The Special Rapporteur’s final recommendations to the U.S. government include, but are not limited to, the following:

· Imposing a moratorium on the demolition and disposition of public housing until one-for-one replacement can be guaranteed;

· Including the Right to First Purchase for Section 8 buildings in the Preservation Bill;

· Extending the Protecting Tenants At Foreclosure Act beyond 2012;

· Developing alternatives to the criminalization of the homeless, e.g., where adequate shelter is not available, allowing homeless persons to shelter themselves in public areas;

· Ensuring that poor communities are not displaced as development takes place, with respect to the Choice Neighborhoods program; and

· Making empty and foreclosed properties available for sale to non-profit organizations and community land trusts.

In commenting on the significance of the final report, Tiffany M. Gardner, Director of NESRI’s Human Right to Housing Program, stated: “The Special Rapporteur’s final report highlights the myriad of housing issues local and community groups have been trying to highlight to government officials for many years. Hopefully this international attention will inspire meaningful dialogue towards workable solutions between our government and those communities that are directly impacted by these issues.”

Since the visit, national advocacy around these issues has continued. For example, NESRI and community partners across the country are producing a documentary on the U.S. mission. A trailer of the documentary, which will be previewed tomorrow at the UN in Geneva, will highlight the site visits conducted by the Special Rapporteur during the mission and will underscore the work of local community groups in combating the housing crisis and building the national human right to housing movement.

Reflecting on the ongoing impact of the mission, Becky Dennison from Los Angeles Community Action Network explained: “Most organizations and members who planned and participated in the Special Rapporteur’s visit continue to work together to promote and demand the right to housing in Los Angeles. In December 2009, on International Human Rights Day, more than 250 residents that were truly reflective of multi-cultural Los Angeles took to the streets to bring light to domestic human rights violations.”

Notes to editors
The Special Rapporteur’s presentation to the UN Human Rights Council will take place within the window of 1 – 3 pm Geneva time (7 -9 am EST) on Friday, March 5, at the "Palais des Nations" (UN main building in Geneva), room XX. The session will be webcast live at http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp and archived about one hour after the end of the meetings.

View a link to Special Rapporteur’s official final report at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/13session/A.HRC.13.20.ADD.4_AEV.pdf

View a short video statement by the Special Rapporteur at the conclusion of her US mission in November 2009 at http://www.vimeo.com/9920589

A trailer of a documentary about the UN Special Rapporteur’s Mission to the US will be screened at a side event on March 5 entitled “The Housing Rights Situation in the US.” The event will take place at Palais des Nations, Room XXVII, at 4 pm Geneva time (10 am EST). Speaking will be Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik and Salih Booker, Executive Director, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE). The event is organized by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and COHRE. The trailer will be available online tomorrow at http://www.nesri.org/

In addition to the trailer screening on March 5 in Geneva, the documentary will be screened in full-length during the week of April 12th at town hall meetings across the US. The town hall meetings, marking the release of the report, will be organized by local groups that participated in the mission and are members of the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights. The documentary will also be provided to U.S. government officials. More information about the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights and the April screenings will be available shortly at http://restorehousingrights.org/

Phil Wider
Communications Director
National Economic & Social Rights Initiative
90 John Street, Suite 308
New York, NY 10038
(212) 253.1710, extension 301

Also see: The Olympics and Homelessness:
The Olympics: Celebrating or Denigrating Our Common Humanity?

By Chris Famighetti
Intern, NESRI Human Right to Housing Program
Taraneh Ghajar Jerven’s recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, “2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony: What about Vancouver’s homeless?” highlights the injustices perpetrated in the run-up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.(1) Jerven discusses the expensive development costs associated with the 2010 Olympic Games, where the original budget of $660 million was revised to over $5 billion.(2) The astronomical increase in costs for the Vancouver Olympics is especially egregious when considering that the city’s homeless population has doubled since 2003 – the same year that the city secured its Olympic bid. This rise in homelessness leaves one wondering: how can an international event that claims to celebrate peace, unity and global harmony so callously ignore the needs of the most vulnerable populations? What kind of priorities is the international community embracing in such an outright rejection of the human right to housing?
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Anonymous said…
As a Native American who does not live on a Reservation but one who respects those that do because I believe they have kept to their traditions closer than those of us who do not live in close proximity as on a Reservation.

How would I know what goes on and how would I know the first thing of how to solve the issues that plague there. I do read and see the depridations but I see a lot of good also, is all the good just propaganda?

I think all Indians are works of art and Beautiful especially the Elders and little children and babies, our ancestors endured so that we live on, we should all make the most of every day.

I also read that there are Civil Rights groups organized to help their Tribes. One, the "Civil Rights Office of the Dakotas" - 200 NORTH PHILLIPS AVE. SIOUX FALLS. SD. 57104-6052 claims to be working for Indians, I would suppose the Sioux!

The director Betty ann Owens Gross a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Nation, grew up on the Pine Ridge Rez has on a Blog that "My gift is that I can create a program, organization starting with just a pen and paper. Hand me a budget and I can create jobs from the bottom to the top and not even bat an eye. That is my gift that I chose to embrace. Right now I am creating two different programs at no charge for two different tribes and do not want credit or recognition for it, that is my gift to them."

I think her gifts should be put to use with her own Blood on the Pine ridge, not on the concrete jungles of Sioux Falls!

Of course there are always extenuating circumstances but she does claim to have a Masters!

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