Universal access to sanitation is also a human right

Published: 9/30/2020 4:38:31 PM I read with interest the guest column “Housing is an urgent human right” (Sept. 21). I agree that s...

Published: 9/30/2020 4:38:31 PM

I read with interest the guest column “Housing is an urgent human right” (Sept. 21). I agree that stable housing is the foundation from which a safe and meaningful life can be developed. I suspect the timing of the piece is also tied to the pending end-date of the eviction moratorium for nonpayment of rent in Massachusetts.

I grew up with housing instability (e.g., I attended four schools during third grade — meaning three moves through two states in 10 months). I experienced homelessness as a child, young adult and again as a parent of small children. I worked as a lay-advocate for low-income renters facing eviction for 10-plus years.

I served as the manager of financial programs aimed at stabilizing housing situations; provided supportive services to help steady the lives of subsidized-tenants living with HIV/AIDS; was a project manager for affordable-housing development, and served on committees and boards addressing housing equity issues.

I understand this issue from many perspectives. The eviction moratorium was not named in the piece, so I will limit my comments to “there must be landlords in order for there to be rental housing, and it costs money to own and maintain properties. Few problems have simple solutions.”

As the Northampton Human Rights Commission considers their advocacy, I wish to add that I was grateful to the city for installing port-a-potties around our downtown neighborhood last winter. Some sites even had the hand-washing stations. These provided encamped people in our neighborhood a place, other than the woods and meadows, to defecate. It has become such a crisis, that I am reluctant to walk in areas I used to frequent daily.

Universal access to sanitation is also a human right, and much easier to address than the decades-in-the-making shortage of affordable housing, mental health erosion, and lack of adequate human services. Nevermind our country stubbornly clinging to a “self-made” or individualism ideology that ignores the reality of power.

Let us continue using our power to make the community better and safer for all of us, including providing access to sanitation.

Toni Doherty


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Newsrust: Universal access to sanitation is also a human right
Universal access to sanitation is also a human right
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