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The "Right to Live"

Civil Legal Services and Human Rights

By Wendy Pollack

The right to income support--called, in international human rights law, “social security”--is perhaps the most basic of human rights and is at the heart of advocacy on behalf of low-income clients. Founders of the movement for civil legal services for the poor, closely linked in its early days to the welfare rights movement that was vibrant then, strategized about achieving recognition of a “constitutional right to live.” After U.S. Supreme Court decisions cut short that effort, advocacy turned to the state level. As economic hardship deepens for clients, a human rights focus offers new tools for achieving a right to social security.

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