**** The information written here is not legal advice and the author of this blog is not your lawyer. These posts merely contain ideas to help you plan and organize your legal research and identify potentially helpful sources of law. ****
It is said that there are negative laws, saying “though shalt not” and positive laws saying, “though shalt.” In the context of shelters collecting information and going through possessions, here’s how those apply:
Because shelters have legal obligations to get healthcare for sick and injured residents, to assist the police looking for certain residents, and to fulfill contractual obligations with their funders to provide basic data about the number of people served, they have legitimate reasons for collecting identifying information about their residents. Knowing that they are liable for the safety of residents, they have reasons to be sure that people do not bring in weapons, illegal drugs, or other dangerous items. This could all be restated saying, “thou shalt not let residents hurt others or suffer harm.”
There are ever-increasing community initiatives to reduce homelessness. These are typically coordinated by government agencies, such as the housing authority and the health department, acting under the authority of their federal counterparts. They bring about the construction of new shelters and the implementation of new social services.
When the agency rules and regulations say things like, “every shelter resident must be informed about the public housing program” or “every shelter resident who appears to be unable to sustain gainful employment shall be referred to a disability assessment screening for potential application for Social Security or SSI Disability benefits” they are assuring that the homeless find out about their services. They are saying to shelter staff, “thou shalt collect enough information about residents that you can give them the best possible service referrals.”
|A national directory of homeless shelters is available from the Department of Housing and Urban Development at http://www.hud.gov/homeless/hmlsagen.cfm.|