Homelessness : An Introduction to Homelessness Law

Do I have the right to a bed at an emergency shelter if I am homeless?

Unfortunately, you do not have a “right” to shelter if you are homeless.

The United States and Ohio Constitutions do not provide for a right to a shelter.

However, in many areas of Ohio there are homeless shelters or homeless assistance groups that can help you.

In some areas of Ohio, if you dial 211 you will receive directory assistance in finding shelter, food, and other social services.

You can also search for homeless shelters and assistance in your county through the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio’s online directory.

What should I do if non-homeless people physically attack me or attempt to do so?

Homeless advocates consider physically abusing a homeless person, just because they are homeless, a hate crime.

Sadly, the number of hate crimes, or acts of violence against persons because they are homeless, is increasing.

If you are physically attacked, you should first file a report with the police.

Homeless advocacy groups are also interested in tracking violence against people experiencing homelessness.

If you are attacked and you believe it is because you are homeless, you should also contact your regional homeless advocacy organization.

You can find homeless advocacy groups online through the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio’s online directory.

Am I allowed to sleep in a public park (bench, sidewalk, etc.)?

It depends on where you are sleeping.

Many cities and towns have laws against sleeping in parks or blocking sidewalks during certain hours of the day.

If you are unsure of what these laws are in your city or town, you may want to ask a police officer where you are allowed to sleep.

Can I be kicked out of a public library because I am homeless?

Everyone has the right to use public libraries.

You cannot be prohibited from using the library just because you are homeless.

However, the library does have the right to prohibit behavior that disturbs other library patrons.

If the library has policies restricting disruptive behavior, such as sleeping or eating, they must provide notice for all library patrons as to what the policies are. Ideally, the notices should be posted signs specifically defining the forbidden behavior.

Also, the library staff must equally enforce their policies. For instance, library staff may not prohibit a homeless person from bringing large bags of belongings into the library, yet allow a high school student to bring a large tuba case into the library.

If a library bans policy offenders from returning to the library, the library should also have an established appeals process.

If a public library has kicked you out and you believe it was because you are homeless (no notices of library behavioral policies or the policies not equally enforced) your rights may have been violated. The American Civil Liberties Union may be able to help you.

My landlord changed the locks to my apartment and didn’t give me a new key. Now I am homeless. What should I do?

Landlords in Ohio are not permitted to forcibly evict tenants on their own, whether or not a tenant’s right to stay in the rental property has ended.

Landlords must go through a legal eviction process.

  • First, a landlord must serve their tenant with a three day notice to vacate (leave) the rental unit. If the tenant doesn’t leave in three days, the landlord can file a Forcible Entry and Detainer action in court (the landlord is asking the court to evict the tenant and force them off the property).

  • The court will schedule a hearing and the tenant will receive a summons (ordering the tenant to appear in court) and complaint (copy of the document the landlord filed with the court) at least five days before the hearing.

  • At the hearing, if the judge finds in favor of the landlord, the landlord must make arrangements with the court to remove the tenant’s belongings from the rental unit if the tenant doesn’t leave on her own. The key is that the court arranges for the removal of a tenant’s belongings from a rental unit if the tenant refuses to leave after an eviction process described above.

  • Tenants have a right to stay in their rental unit until there is an eviction order from the court. Even with an eviction order, the landlord may not remove a tenant’s property from the rental unit, unless they have a court order and court supervision.

  • A landlord also may not cut off a tenant’s utilities or change the locks in order to kick a tenant out of their rental property. If a landlord is trying to evict you through any of these “self-help” techniques, you may be able to obtain legal assistance. Call 1-866-529-6446 or find the legal services provider in your area now.

Visit www.ohiohomelesslaw.org to learn more about homeless law in Ohio.

See also the Forms & Education tab

in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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