About a dozen people gathered outside the offices of Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) in Raleigh this afternoon asking her to support the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act (S. 1668). The action was one of many taking place across the nation today -- Human Rights Day -- as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development prepares to begin demolishing four large public housing complexes in New Orleans. A lack of affordable housing is slowing the Hurricane Katrina recovery and has contributed to the doubling of the city's homeless population since the storm.

The legislation is being blocked in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee -- of which Dole is a member -- by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) It would require that demolished public housing units be replaced by comparable affordable units or by vouchers to help low-income residents afford private-market rents, which have risen sharply since the disaster.

Among those who spoke at the event were Ajamu Dillahunt, an outreach coordinator with the N.C. Justice Center and an Institute for Southern Studies board member; Chris Kromm, the Institute's executive director; and Nana Nantambu, a displaced New Orleans resident who now lives in Durham, N.C. Nantambu blasted the top-down decision-making process behind the planned public housing demolitions.

"It's a violation of human rights guaranteed by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement to not get the input of persons who were renters or who were displaced from housing developments," she said.

Following a brief press conference outside the Terry Sanford Federal Building, Dillahunt, Kromm and others went inside and visited Dole's office, where the senator's staff invited them to share their concerns about the housing situation on the Gulf Coast and the importance of passing S. 1668. A companion measure, H.R. 1227, passed the House overwhelmingly earlier this year.

Among those attending today's event in Raleigh were members of the N.C. Public Workers Union UE 150. They drew a connection between human rights violations on the Gulf Coast and a North Carolina law prohibiting collective bargaining for public employees, which they say is a violation of workers' human rights.

There are also protests and actions around the worsening New Orleans housing crisis planned this week in Oakland, Calif., Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Denver, Cleveland and Boston, among other places. Details can be found here.

At a protest held last Thursday at a New Orleans City Council meeting, Bill Quigley -- an attorney representing public housing residents and an occasional Facing South contributor -- was hauled off in handcuffs after refusing to leave the premises, the Associated Press reports.

For more coverage of the Raleigh event -- including a video of Dillahunt speaking -- visit the Raleigh News & Observer's "Under the Dome" blog. There's also a story about the action on the N.C. Democratic Party's website here.