December, 2020 

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Dear Friends—

This has been a tough year—and especially hard for our unhoused neighbors. People experiencing homelessness are particularly at risk of infection and death from COVID-19; they are also disproportionately members of minoritized communities, often targeted by police and private violence.

But despite the challenges, with your support, we redoubled our efforts, pivoted our focus, and achieved tangible victories that helped empower communities and save lives.

We beat back a draconian plan from the Trump Administration to criminalize people simply for being homeless—building on our landmark ruling in Martin v. Boise that criminalizing homelessness is not only inhumane and ineffective, it is also unconstitutional.

We developed policy recommendations—many of which were adopted by the CDC in new guidelines, urging communities to cease sweeps and to place unsheltered people into individual housing units.

We helped our local partners actually use those guidelines—getting thousands of people into hotel rooms in communities around the country, tracking successes to spur others.

We urged the presidential candidates to support the right to housing —and five incorporated it in their platforms, including the incoming president and vice-president.

We fought for the right to housing at the state and local level—and got introduced a bill to amend the California constitution to include it, the first in the country.

And during this year of extreme challenges, we helped homeless families and youth living on their own know and advocate for their rights and their children’s rights— to education, health care, housing and other critical resources.

This has also been a momentous year for the Law Center itself. We announced a new, more streamlined name and an updated look—we hope you like them.

And I announced that 31 years after founding the National Homelessness Law Center, I will be stepping down as Executive Director and turning my focus to writing and teaching. It’s bittersweet, but I know I will leave our work and our organization on a strong trajectory. I’m gratified by the response we’ve gotten to the search for my successor; we hope to announce the next Law Center leader soon.

Finally, we held our first ever virtual McKinney-Vento Awards event, honoring Bruce RosenblumPramila JayapalFish & Richardson, and Jonathan Singleton, and featuring Kerry Coddett as hostess. If you missed it, you can catch the recording on our website in the near future.

Meanwhile, thank you so much for your support!

Maria Foscarinis

Founder & Executive Director

Law Center Carries First Day and First 100 Days Priorities to Biden Transition Team

Over the past month, Law Center Legal Director Eric Tars has worked closely with partners in the National Coalition for Housing Justice and Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights to bring the priorities of people experiencing homelessness to the incoming Biden Transition Teams at the Departments of Justice and Housing & Urban Development. The Law Center is thrilled that thanks to our decades-long advocacy, this Administration will be coming in with a platform including adequate housing as a right, not a privilege.

The Law Center’s Day 1 priorities include addressing the COVID Housing Emergency by treating housing as a human right, extending the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) rental eviction moratorium and rescinding the harmful guidance that reduced its protections, converting the CDC guidance on unsheltered homelessness into an order, so that homeless persons are not evicted from encampments unless they are offered safe, individualized housing, and rescinding many of the harmful, discriminatory executive orders issued by the Trump Administration that impact access to housing and shelter.

For the First 100 Days, the Law Center is calling on the Administration to, among other things, create a plan for universal access to affordable housing, together with the input of people with lived experience of homelessness and poverty, to create incentives for communities to stop criminalizing homelessness, to strengthen other housing rights, and to ensure compliance with homeless children’s right to education.

The Law Center will work with the Administration to implement these priorities, while monitoring progress and holding it accountable for doing so.

Human Rights Day and Human Rights Actions

Each year, the Law Center celebrates December 10 as Human Rights Daytogether with the United Nations and organizations around the world. This year’s theme is Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights focuses on the need to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts.

The UN emphasizes “We will reach our common global goals only if we are able to create equal opportunities for all, address the failures exposed and exploited by COVID-19, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.”

One way of applying human rights standards is by holding the U.S. accountable to the record-setting 347 recommendations made through its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November. The UPR, which occurs every 5 years, requires the U.S. and every other country in the world to present on its human rights record and receive recommendations from other countries. This year, thanks to advocacy by the Law Center and its partners at the University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic, the U.S. received many recommendations calling for equitable access to housing based on race and gender status, including through COVID-19 relief, and reduce disparate racial impacts of law enforcement and police violence as well as specific recommendations to address homelessness and the criminalization of poverty. The U.S. must accept or reject these recommendations at the next Human Rights Council session in March, and the Law Center will be working to ensure they are accepted, with a plan for implementation.

Another way of integrating human rights is by applying the recently released comprehensive model emergency legislation to protect the right to housing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis and accompanying briefing paper by the The Shift, Open Society Justice Initiative the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy NUIG, and a coalition of human rights groups. It combines provisions drawn from a range of existing legislative measures, but goes beyond most by including provisions to protect those facing homelessness, people with disabilities, and people living in temporary encampments and housing for migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Elements can be adopted by governments from the federal to local levels, and we should advocate with them to use the basic legal provisions outlined in the model legislation to prompt and guide the development of domestic laws to ensure access to the human right to housing for all.


22nd Annual McKinney-Vento Awards

To those who we able to attend, thank you for joining the National Homelessness Law Center at the 22nd Annual McKinney-Vento Awards on December 9th. Our host Kerry Coddett helped us (virtually) celebrate and acknowledge our honorees for this year.

Stewart B. McKinney Award 

Bruce Rosenblum 

Bruce F. Vento Award 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal

Pro Bono Counsel Award 

Fish & Richardson

Personal Achievement Award 

Jonathan Singleton

This year’s event would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors!

Law Center in the Media

Southern Poverty Law Center (12/14/2020) ‘Housing, Not Handcuffs’: SPLC, allies end police harassment of people panhandling in Montgomery, Alabama

Shore Line Times (12/14/2020) Local women help ‘unseen’ homeless and their pets on shoreline, seek donations

Shelterforce (12/8/2020) How Nonprofits Are Responding to Trump’s Executive Order Banning “Divisive Concepts”

Princeton Daily Clarion (12/8/2020) 50 facts about homelessness in America

Medill Reports Chicago (12/8/2020) Domestic violence survivors face an uphill battle maintaining their legally protected housing subsidies

Nevada Current (12/1/2020) Residents of homeless encampment displaced after early morning raid

The McDonough County Voice (11/30/2020) Fast virus surge, slow government make homelessness worse

Canton Daily Ledger (11/30/2020) Fast virus surge, slow gov’t make homelessness worse

The Telegraph (11/28/2020) Montgomery to halt arrests of panhandlers in settlement pact

The Hour (11/28/2020) Montgomery to halt arrests of panhandlers in settlement pact

Manistee News Advocate (11/28/2020) Montgomery to halt arrests of panhandlers in settlement pact

Vox (11/27/2020) We know how to prevent up to 40 million people from being evicted. It’s up to Congress to do it.

Montgomery Advertiser (11/25/2020) Montgomery settles panhandling lawsuit brought by homeless citizens

Community Word (11/25/2020) Stay at home orders pointless for the homeless


Bohemian (11/25/2020) Sonoma County Releases Homeless Count as Economic Crisis Drags On


Changing Laws. Changing Lives.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to end and prevent homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and long-term needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.

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