April, 2021 

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Dear Friends—

The National Homelessness Law Center team welcomes our newest member, Antonia Fasanelli, back to the Law Center as our Executive Director.

As we embark on this journey, we look forward to growing as an organization and sharing this growth with you. Our growth will include a renewed commitment to become anti-racist.  We use this occasion to reflect on the role of the legal community and of nonprofits – including our own organization – in upholding attributes of white supremacy. In our communications, we will be intentional in dismantling white supremacy and will diversify our voice as we work actively to create an anti-racist world. Going forward, we will highlight and showcase all of our voices – including us as staff, our partners in the field, and our neighbors and team members with lived experiences of homelessness and housing instability. We are excited to share our voices with you.

We are committed to being the change we want to see in the world.

Sincerely,

The Staff of the National Homelessness Law Center

Melissa Anoh – Program and Networks Vista

Rajan Bal – Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign Manager

Karianna Barr – Director of Development & Communications

Tristia Bauman – Senior Attorney

Antonia Fasanelli – Executive Director

Whittni Holland – Development Associate

Steve Kennedy – Legal Intern

Carlton Martin- Pro Bono Manager

Sarah Riley – Development & Communications Vista

Brandy Ryan – Staff Attorney

Nitan Shanas – Policy Intern

Deborah Shepard – Operations Manager

Eric Tars – Legal Director

Progress on Ending Homelessness: President Biden’s First 100 Days

Follow our Scorecard on Priorities to End Homelessness!

Earlier this year the Law Center published its recommended priorities to end homelessness in America for the Biden-Harris administration’s first 100 days. With pro bono support from our partners at Akin Gump, we have created a scorecard which evaluates to what extent these housing priorities have been met. The scorecard assigns Green, Yellow, or Red ratings, and is updated weekly on our website.

Green

  • Reaffirm Housing Is a Human Right
  • Plan a Comprehensive COVID Relief Package
  • Replace Robert Marbut at USICH
  • Reverse Ban on Federal Equity Training
  • Rescind the Proposed Changes to the Equal Access Rule

Yellow

  • Extend Eviction Moratorium
  • Cease Displacements of People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness
  • Support Non-Congregate Shelter
  • Find, Enroll, and Support Missing Homeless PreK-12 Students
  • Rescind the Proposed Changes to the Mixed Status Rule
  • Rescind the Proposed Changes to AFFH
  • Rescind Proposed Changes to the Disparate Impact Standard
  • Fund Universal Housing Assistance
  • Raise the Federal Minimum Wage to a Housing Wage
  • Ensure Adequate Supportive Housing
  • Fund the National Housing Trust Fund and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits
  • Protect Domestic Violence Survivors

Red

  • Direct Agencies to Cease Criminalizing Homelessness
  • Identify Immediately Available Vacant Property
  • Refocus USICH Strategic Plan
  • Add USICH to the Domestic Policy Council
  • Add Seats on USICH Council for Persons with Lived Experience
  • Create a Housing Justice policy team at the Domestic Policy Council
  • Re-Institute the Department of Justice Office of Access to Justice
  • Get Housing Payments to People Unable to Work
  • Waive Restrictions to Access to Housing and Homeless Assistance
  • Strengthen Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act
  • Eliminate Criminalization of Homelessness and Create Adequate Housing
  • Create Federal Incentives for De-criminalizing Homelessness
  • Require Infrastructure Programs for Displaced Encampments
  • Prohibit Source of Income Discrimination
  • Ensure Eviction Right to Counsel
  • Ensure Individuals are Released into Housing
  • Ensure Families are Not Separated Due to Homelessness
  • Protect Homeless Children and Youth

Thank you to Akin Gump for pro bono assistance in creating the Scorecard website.

Litigation Round Up

The Law Center is proud to have worked on the following cases to ensure the rights and protections of our unhoused neighbors:

  • In McArdle v. Ocala, the Middle District of Florida directed the city of Ocala to stop enforcing camping bans unless accessible shelter beds are clearly accessible. The ACLU of FloridaSouthern Legal Counsel, and the AP Law Group persuaded the court to distinguish the 11th Circuit’s Joel v. Orlando case, where the city had ample shelter capacity. Instead, the court found Ocala’s situation was more similar to Boise, in the Law Center’s Martin v. Boise case, which did not have adequate shelter capacity. Beyond the win for the homeless plaintiffs in Ocala, the legal reasoning used in the case affirms the similarities between this and the Martin v. Boise case, providing stronger legal grounding for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness throughout U.S. Circuits.
  • In Sausalito/Marin County Chapter of the Homeless Union v. City of Sausalito, the Sausalito/Marin County Chapter of the Homeless Union and residents of a local encampment prevented the City of Sausalito from breaking up a local encampment during the pandemic. Finding that the proposed enforcement actions “creates a risk to the health and safety of the [encampment residents], as well as the general public”, the court granted Plaintiffs’ motion and stopped the City from breaking up the encampment and enforcing the day camping ban.
  • In In Re Linda Durnin et. al., the Texas Supreme Court rejected a request by local business leaders to remove language mentioning criminal penalties from a ballot measure that would reinstate Austin’s bans on camping, sleeping, and sitting or lying. The Law Center, with the assistance of the Law Office of Joseph Abraham, submitted an amicus brief highlighting the impact of re-criminalizing homelessness in Austin
  • In Oklahoma City v. McCraw, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request to overturn a 10th Circuit decision. This rejection means that the Circuit decision, which struck down an anti-panhandling ordinance, is maintained under First Amendment right to ask for donations. The Law Center consulted with the ACLU of Oklahoma on the case, which built on previous cases the Law Center has been involved with in strengthening precedent protecting people’s right to ask for help.
  • In Warren v. Chico, the Eastern District of California granted a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting enforcement of anti-camping ordinances and stopping a sweep of the Comanche Creek Green Way homeless encampment. The Law Center consulted with Legal Services of Northern California who brought the case, building on the Law Center’s victory in Martin v. Boise.
  • In Colorado v. Wiemold, the District Court of Larimer County, Colorado, dismissed a criminal case enforcing an anti-camping law. In the case, a homeless individual could not access the shelter in town due to the shelter’s rules. Citing the Ninth Circuit’s Martin v. Boise ruling as well as the 4th Circuit’s ruling in Manning v. Caldwell, the court reasoned that while the shelter may have had open beds, these were inaccessible to Mr. Wiemold. This case builds on ongoing collaboration between the Law Center and the ACLU of Colorado.

Proposed Legislation to Further Criminalize Homelessness

Amidst the ongoing struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic, several states have proposed new legislation which would further criminalize homelessness—against Law Center recommendations. Lawmakers in Arizona, Texas, and Tennessee proposed statewide camping bans which would make sleeping on public land a misdemeanor.

In Arizona, a recently introduced state bill would make camping on state property a Class 3 misdemeanor. Thankfully, the bill died in committee thanks to local advocacy work. The bill would also put cities and towns at risk of losing state public safety grants if they do not ban street camping in public places—thereby forcing people experiencing homelessness into state-sanctioned camps.

Lacking local and expert input, this bill did not address issues of housing and homelessness in a way that is legal or equitable for those living in Arizona.

Similarly, Texas Senate Bill 987 would establish a statewide public camping ban and impose fines and penalties for camping in a public place. SB 987 doesn’t provide resources or solutions to get people out of tents, but it does impose possible jail time and fines for those who cannot afford shelter. The Law Center created a fact sheet to share with local advocates and wrote a letter in opposition to this bill.

Lastly, Tennessee lawmakers introduced State Senate bill 1610/HB 978 which sought to make soliciting or camping on a state or interstate highway or under a bridge or overpass a Class C misdemeanor offense. It would also make it a Class E felony for anyone to camp on state-owned property not designated for camping use. Fortunately, SB 1610 also died in committee thanks to coordinated local opposition.

Both the Texas and Arizona bills were pushed forward by the Cicero Institute, a Texas-based think tank which is advocating for anti-camping bills in several states across the country.

NEWS from the LAW CENTER

The Law Center Has a New Executive Director

We are so excited to introduce our new Executive Director, Antonia Fasanelli! For thirteen years, Antonia was Executive Director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc. (HPRP), a Maryland-based civil legal aid organization committed to changing the systems that contribute to poverty and homelessness.  She was previously with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, where she led the Affordable Housing Initiative. She has chaired the American Bar Association’s Commission on Homelessness & Poverty, the Legal Services Committee of the ABA Commission on Veterans Legal Services and currently co-chairs the Economic Justice Committee of the ABA Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice. You can read more about her on our staff page.

Law Center in the Media

For updates on the Law Center in the News, see here!

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.

www.nlchp.org

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