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Confronting Homelessness as a Human Rights Violation for Persons with Mental Disorders

Author(s):  M. Moses1
Affiliation(s): 1Post Graduate, Faculty of Law, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Keywords: Homelessness, mental disorders, human rights

The basic idea of human rights is construed as the intrinsic dignity and worth of an individual. Dignity and worth of an individual envisages provision of services to an individual such as housing. Typically, a discourse about homelessness and human rights focuses on the right to housing. Violation of this right to housing is in most cases caused by the shortage of affordable housing facilities, poverty, low wage work insufficient to pay for basic living expenses, and the lack of services to help people overcome personal challenges such as mental and physical health problems and alcohol and substance abuse. This is a topic of crucial importance, particularly in light of the lack of appropriate, adequate and affordable housing a cross the world especially in the developing countries. Relatively there has been little discussion on the provision of housing to persons with mental disabilities especially in the developing world. This discussion imposes an obligation on the states to immediately ensure that all persons with mental disabilities are provided with housing facilities to the maximum of its available resources and to progressively realize such persons’ economic, social and cultural rights. As will be discussed in this paper, homelessness is in itself a human rights violation and that it constitutes an infraction of such fundamental human rights and dignities.


A home, in addition to being a basic right, is in many places the crucial limiting factor in the process of deinstitutionalization and psychiatric reform. Everybody needs decent home. The need for psychiatric beds for people with mental disorders is beyond question. This paper examines the elements of international human rights law directly linked to persons with mental disabilities. It makes a discussion of the right to adequate accommodation and shows how respect for human rights can ensure eradication of homelessness in persons with mental disabilities. It further recognizes that homelessness is a violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms. It recognizes that viewing homelessness as a human rights violation is of significant normative value and legal import in ensuring that homelessness in persons with mental disabilities is controlled


The study found that persons with mental disabilities are a special kind of group that need protection since they are unable to work and provide fro themselves. A home in addition to being a basic right is in most cases the limiting factor for the realisation of other rights of persons with mental disabilities. It also found that the United Nations recognizes the need for increased international human rights, protections for people with mental and physical disabilities and as a result several international human rights instruments have provisions with implications on the rights of persons with mental disabilities.

Lessons learned: That using human rights discourse to address the issue of homelessness, empowers people experiencing homelessness themselves and can be a vital tool for primary prevention of homeless in people with mental disorders. It also challenges us to recognize that all is not well and that we must do better to end homelessness especially in persons with mental disabilities. Thus mental disability person’s rights activists should always invoke the human rights approach in the fight against homelessness in mental disabled persons. This approach does not only protect the mental disabled persons but also ensures public health as threats of harm to the public and property by the mental disabled persons are always minimized.

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