Right to Housing Forum

Wednesday, November 16th 12pm – 5pm and Thursday, November 17th, 2022 9am-5pm

Hosted by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

2001 K St NW, Washington, DC 20006

Each year, the National Homelessness Law Center hosts a National Forum on the Human Right to Housing. People who are currently or formerly homeless, attorneys, government officials, and advocates from across the country gather in Washington, D.C., to organize and strategize on ways we can work to end the criminalization of people experiencing homelessness.

Our National Forum provides a valuable opportunity for people and organizations that do diverse work in the housing and homelessness sector to work together to create innovative and effective ways to fight homelessness.

Registration is now closed

We may still be able to accommodate those wishing to attend the forum virtually. Please reach out to info@homelesslaw.org or with questions or for more info.

2022 Right to Housing Forum Schedule

Registration is now closed
Click to see the full schedule

COVID-19 Policy

Masking – Masks are required to be worn at all times except when eating.

Testing & Vaccinations – All forum attendees are asked to either have received their first three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine OR take a negative rapid test no more than 3 days before the event. Rapid tests will be made available at the forum if needed.

Wednesday November 16th

Keynote Speaker

Plenary Sessions

Attended by all forum registrants

Wednesday November 16th from 2pm – 3:30pm | more information coming soon!

Wednesday November 16th from 3:45pm – 5pm | more information coming soon!

Thursday November 17th

Workshop Breakout Sessions

Attendees may select one workshop per breakout session

Breakout Session 1

9:30am – 10:45am

Thursday November 17th | more information coming soon!

Session Description: The First Amendment provides some of the strongest legal argumentation for litigation challenging the criminalization of homelessness, particularly when criminalization comes in the form of legislative bans on sharing food or soliciting charitable donations. NHLC’s Litigation Manual Supplement found that since the seminal Reed v. Gilbert Supreme Court case in 2015, all cases challenging panhandling bans, for instance, have led to successful outcomes, with “successful outcomes” defined as court findings of unconstitutionality, repeals of the challenged law, overturning of convictions based on the challenged law, or settlement agreements.

The First Amendment is a powerful tool for our movement, but it is also rapidly changing and vastly complex. This session will discuss key precedent in First Amendment jurisprudence as it relates to the criminalization of homelessness, and strategies for litigators and attorneys as they craft legal arguments.

Speaker: Diana Simpson
Session Description: Our movement is quickly learning that the criminalization of homelessness comes in many forms. In addition to the most common forms of criminalization we see – legislative bans on outdoor sleeping, sitting, lying down, resting, asking for help, and living in vehicles – zoning law has become a more insidious, but incredibly harmful, way in which homelessness is being punished around the country. In cities and states around the country, municipal zoning laws are being used to attempt to legislate shelters and encampment sites out of existence.
This session will discuss trends in exclusionary zoning and how zoning laws have prevented homeless shelters, encampments, and services from opening in communities that need them, or have pushed out and shut down existing structures and services. Speakers will discuss litigation strategy for these types of cases, and share lessons learned from prior lawsuits.

Speakers: Aleya Jones, Jeremy Penn

Session Description: The National Homelessness Law Center and True Colors United released the 2022 State Index on Youth Homelessness. This update measures and analyzes the systems, environment, and laws of all 50 states and D.C. as they relate to preventing and ending youth homelessness. The Index paints a broad picture of where states currently stand in these categories and how they can collectively and individually improve their efforts to end and prevent youth homelessness. This session will explain the methodology behind the State Index and do a deep dive into the data to help policymakers and advocates think about what changes they can make to existing policies, systems, and services towards ending and preventing youth homelessness at the state level.

Breakout Session 2

11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Speakers: Darryl Maxwell, Christine Kulumani, Rachel Blake, and Joseph Jampel

Session Description: The National Homelessness Law Center is launching a nationwide effort to fill the gaps in pro bono representation for nonprofit and community organizations working to end homelessness called In-HOUSING Counsel. Our partners on the ground have expressed difficulty in finding legal assistance for organizations operating outside of major metropolitan areas regarding a wide variety of issues, including restrictive zoning/land use issues, navigating local ordinances, contracting & invoicing with municipal & county agencies, tax issues, developing employment and other policies, and governance issues. In this session, learn from a panel of experts who are running programs that represent nonprofit organizations in their communities about the legal issues they see over and over again, the benefits and challenges of representing an organizational client, and best practices in navigating conflicts and other ethical issues.

Speaker: Graham Prauss

Session Description: This session reviews legal and economic constraints on people who inhabit vehicles in public parking. Point-in-time counts of unsheltered people across the Western United States show a growing population who inhabit vehicles, often parked for extended periods in public areas. Some of the largest Western US communities report that one-third to one-half of individuals and families who sleep in public spaces reside in a vehicle such as a car, van, commercial-sized truck, recreational vehicle (RV), detached trailer, or bus. People who live in vehicles as their primary accommodation, vehicle residents, are often on limited- or fixed-incomes and choose this form of shelter as an affordable long-term option to maintain a connection to familiar communities, employment, healthcare and social services. Though they may not self-identify as homeless, vehicle residents in urban spaces often live for over one year in public parking and report disabling conditions, meeting the federal definition of chronically homeless. With no access to private places to locate their home, vehicle residents experience persistent criminalization and banishment from public areas through ticketing, property seizure, and restrictive signs. Anti-vehicle residency legal policies, ordinances, and enforcement are forms of structural violence that shape and police public spaces. Such criminalization and banishment tends to operate with impunity because its harmful outcomes are presupposed as justified to maintain a status quo. This session examines why and how people use vehicle residency as an adaptive strategy to local conditions. It demonstrates how the criminalization and banishment of vehicle residency operate as forms of structural violence that exclude displaced people from their communities.

Lunch & Discussion

12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Speakers: Mark Horvath – Invisible People, Pam Fessler – NHLC Board

As media narratives demonizing and exploiting people experiencing homelessness proliferate, our panel will discuss messaging and narrative building around homelessness, with a key focus on the importance of elevating the voices of those with lived experience. Join us in learning how to effectively engage and leverage the stories of people impacted by homelessness, as a tool to shift public perceptions around its root causes and strengthen the arguments for effective solutions.   

Breakout Session 3

2:15 pm – 3:45 pm

Thursday November 17th | more information coming soon!

Speaker: Sean Kidd, Denise Gartey, Noah Patton, and Evlondo Cooper
Session Description: As the climate changes rapidly, people experiencing housing insecurity, homelessness, and particularly unsheltered homelessness are often the most vulnerable to natural disasters and related displacement or forced migration. While there is a vast network of federal disaster relief funds and programs, these programs are not created or administered with unhoused communities in mind. Additionally, as communities get creative about implementing climate change-fighting infrastructure, effects like gentrification and displacement are seldom contemplated.
This session will explore ways in which the federal disaster relief system can be reformed to account for and accommodate people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity, as well as ways that city planners and climate change activists can adapt their communities’ infrastructure to withstand climate change in ways that do not force out unhoused and low-income residents.

Speaker: Katie Meyer-Scott

Session Description: It can be difficult for people who have never experienced housing instability to understand the choices that youth and young adults experiencing homelessness make each day to survive. Yet, often these choices are the best option given the legal climate in their state. Join us for an interactive presentation that will allow you to explore the reasons for the impossible choices that youth face and examine ways to improve the climate for youth in your state.

Speakers: Jade Arellano

Session Description: Sanctioned encampments have been popping up all over the country as an “emergency response” to homelessness during, and after, the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that COVID-specific funding is running dry, many local governments have proposed making these encampments a formal tier of the shelter system. In this session, Jade Arellano, Organizing Director at the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) will discuss the implications of relying on these encampments as a “service.” Particularly, the session will interrogate how sanctioned encampments have been and will continue to be used to sweep and warehouse unhoused people living on the streets, and how they are part of a larger trend whereby local governments fabricate and formalize “service resistance” in order to continue the criminalization of homelessness under Martin v. Boise.

Click to see the full schedule
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