Homelessness Action Legal Team

About HALT

The Homelessness Action Legal Team (HALT) is a national legal community effort to serve and protect homeless Americans and those at risk of becoming homeless. HALT members serve as core support for the National Homelessness Law Center to achieve our mission of using the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness.

HALT, formerly known as LEAP (Lawyer’s Executive Advisory Partnership) was rebranded in early 2022 to better incorporate our values and mission into the name of the program.

Through membership in HALT, the Law Center offers law firms and corporate legal departments many opportunities to leverage pro bono legal services throughout the year. HALT members have participated in the fight to end homelessness through litigating educational rights for children, challenging anti-camping laws, researching the impact of criminalization, and more.

HALT members receive special recognition throughout the year and invitations to exclusive HALT events. HALT members not only work on high-profile pro bono projects that address systemic injustices and help prevent and end homelessness, but they also have the opportunity to proactively weigh in on our homelessness advocacy strategy.

In 2021, the Law Center’s groundbreaking legal work included:

Protecting Human and Civil Rights: In February 2021, we settled our landmark case Martin v. Boise, in conjunction with HALT Member Latham & Watkins and Idaho Legal Aid which includes $1.3 Million in new funding to provide housing, shelter and services for Boise’s homeless community.

Pushing for Housing Rights During the COVID pandemic: In partnership with hundreds of other national and local organizations, the Law Center won multiple extensions of the national eviction moratorium and billions of dollars in emergency rental payments in the American Rescue Plan Act.

Establishing Housing as a Human Right in Federal Policy: Thanks to decades of advocacy, the Law Center, with the assist from the team at Akin Gump, finally saw the human right to housing firmly established as the baseline of federal Administration policy. President Biden and HUD Secretary Fudge stated that housing should be a right for every American multiple times. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness stated the right would be a “core value” of its new federal strategic plan to end homelessness, and thanks to the Law Center’s coordination, “housing should be a human right” was the top message received by USICH in comments on the plan.

Supporting Youth Experiencing Homelessness: The Law Center released its third edition the State Index on Youth Homelessness, an advocacy tool created in collaboration with True Colors and support from HALT member Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, who helped to collect and evaluate new data on youth homelessness in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

HALT Pro Bono Victories

As 2022 comes to a close, we are looking back on our victories over the past year in our work to end and prevent the criminalization of homelessness and protect the rights of unhoused people. One major victory that we are excited to share comes from our long time HALT Members McCarter & English.

Following a string of three consecutive busy years for hurricanes, in 2018, the Law Center received disturbing reports of unhoused persons being discriminated against when seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shelter, housing, and other support offered to newly homeless victims after natural disasters.

The Law Center and National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) engaged the pro bono assistance of McCarter & English to help pursue a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for FEMA policies and procedures related to determining eligibility for post-disaster resources.

Throughout many years of working together the, McCarter & English team including Franklin Turner (a Law Center Board Member), Ethan Brown, Kevin Conoscenti, Alexander Major, and Thomas Terebesi continued to fight for the FOIA requests from FEMA, ultimately resulting in a final disclosure earlier this month with far more information than initially shared by the agency. Not all requested information was disclosed, and the team is currently evaluating next steps. However, the information that was gained has been instrumental in larger efforts to get Congress to consider the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act that would create a permanently authorized disaster fund to replace the ad hoc approach taken with previous disasters, and ensure non-discrimination in the distribution of those resources. In fact, earlier this year on January 19, informed by FEMA’s disclosures, NLIHC President Diane Yentel gave testimony before the subcommittee on the House Financial Services Committee urging Congress to pass the Act.

The Law Center and NLIHC are deeply grateful to the attorneys at McCarter & English who are helping ensure more fair and equitable treatment of victims of future disasters. We are grateful that McCarter & English have been long time members of our Homelessness Action Legal Team(HALT) and supporters of the Law Center. Please consider joining HALT and multiply the impact of your pro-bono work!

Thank you to Latham and Watkins for Helping Get the “Good Cause Exception” Passed in Washington State! 

 We are excited to share more of our Pro-Bono Victories with HALT Partner Latham Watkins! 

Earlier this year, our HALT Partners at Latham Watkins helped score a major victory in Washington state for unhoused people seeking public assistance. In early March 2022, SB 5729 in Washington passed unanimously in both houses and was signed by the governor later that month. SB 5729 allows a good cause exception for late public benefit hearing requests due to housing instability, and will go into effect in July 2023. This exception ensures that people experiencing homelessness will not lose their chance to appeal terminations of cash and other assistance. Link to the bill is here: 5729-S.PL

Major thanks go to Clint Summers and Topher Turner from Latham Watkins who provided technical assistance to the Law Center in advising local advocates on the interplay of federal and state law regarding public benefits and in drafting a model good cause bill that other states can use; building on the success in Washington state.  

Thank you to HALT Member Alston & Bird for Neutralizing Georgia’s So-Called “Reducing Street Homelessness Act of 2022!”  

The Law Center is grateful for HALT Member, Alston & Bird’s, efforts to neutralize GA SB 535 – Reducing Street Homelessness Act of 2022! If enacted, SB 535 would have redirected Georgia’s American Rescue Plan funds from the Housing HUD intended for development of permanent housing into legalized encampments, while also creating a statewide camping ban and requiring communities to enforce it or risk losing all state housing funding, as well as making it easier to involuntarily commit people experiencing homelessness with mental illness. Moreover, this bill would have harmed not just Georgia’s residents, but because it is template legislation being promoted by the Cicero Institute, it could have led to introduction of similar measures in other states.  

Because homelessness has a disparate racial impact as well as disparate impacts on persons with disabilities and LGBTQ+ populations, policies like SB 535 that criminalize homelessness exacerbate gaps in arrests, incarceration, fines and fees, and other collateral consequences of criminal justice. Alston’s Mary Benton saw the project through her work on the Homelessness Committee of the Law Firm Anti-racism Alliance (LFAA), and jumped on the chance to provide the quick legal research needed to bolster local advocates’ arguments and stop the bill from passing, in partnership with a team from Brownstein Hyatt Fabrer Schreck who was doing research on a parallel bill in Arizona. 

Thanks to the research provided by lawyers at Alston, instead of passing SB 535, Georgia passed a bill to create a study committee on addressing the unsheltered homelessness crisis. While we agree there is an urgent crisis, we are concerned that this committee will continue to promote ineffective and harmful policies based in a criminal justice response rather than housing. We look forward to continuing to work with Alston and other members of our HALT team to ensure the committee receives accurate information and hopefully promote constructive responses that will help end homelessness in Georgia. 

For more details and to join HALT, view our HALT Information Page, complete our 2023 HALT membership form, and contact Jennifer Toth Clary at jclary@homelesslaw.org.

Thank you to our current HALT members!

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