Involuntary Treatment of the Unhoused is a Human Rights Violation

Anne Zimmerman argues that the US has a moral and legal obligation to provide housing and respect the human rights of the homeless.


A new article published in the Journal of Human Rights and Social Work titled “Homelessness and Mental Illness: Medicalizing a Housing Crisis” explores the rights and ability of unhoused individuals to defend themselves from unwanted psychiatric assessments and involuntary hospitalizations.  

The author, Anne Zimmerman, is an attorney with an MS in Bioethics from Columbia University and founder of Modern Bioethics, a purpose-based project that promotes critical thinking in bioethics.  

Zimmerman critiques the mainstream way of practicing psychiatry and sheds light on public policy that keeps the unhoused subject to human rights violations.  

She states:  

“As housing is a social determinant of health, a proper housing system is morally compelled by international human rights standards and arguably legally required. In New York, the lack of housing and the mayor’s policy creates a risk of nonconsensual treatment in violation of international human rights and constitutional rights. New York must do more to protect fundamental rights in the realm of housing to avoid violating the rights of the unhoused mentally ill.”
New York, USA – September 6, 2018: Homeless man sleeping in Times Square

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Ally Riddle
Ally is pursuing a master's in interdisciplinary studies through New York University's XE: Experimental Humanities & Social Engagement. She uses the relationship between anthropology, public health, and the humanities to guide her research. Her current interests lie at the intersection of literature and psychology as a method to reframe the way we think about different mental states and experiences. Ally earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in Biology, Society, & Environment.


  1. This issue is very pertinent in California. Here they want to make the homeless go away, and one method to do that is to put them in an institution against their will.

    But we have no accepted local tradition for keeping the unemployed / unemployable people housed. England had its “poor houses” back in the day. Do we go back to that? What can we do for these people that is local and affordable?

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  2. Perhaps they would like to make “poverty” illegal, put all the poor people in jail……pretty much the same thing,..thank NAMI for pushing this crap. They get most of their donations from…… guessed it….yes you guessed it.

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