July 2019

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Dear Friends—

This year we’re celebrating the Law Center’s 30th anniversary and I’m looking back as well as forward.

In 1996, a UN conference in Istanbul, where I traveled along with a small group of other US advocates, made clear what much of the world already knew: housing is not only a basic human need, it is also a basic human right recognized by the law of nations.

That was the start of the Law Center’s work to move forward the human right to housing here in the U.S.—especially for people without stable housing—and to develop practical strategies to advocate for it.

Since then, we’ve built up our expertise and our team—including Eric Tars, who brought a strong human rights background—and we’ve used human rights law and strategies as powerful tools to bolster our advocacy. We’re making strides in fighting the criminalization of homelessness, because the crime is not homelessness—the crime is allowing homelessness to exist in a country that has enough for all.

Our goal is the human right to housing, and that what we’ve been advocating for since those early days. Now, in the run-up to the 2020 election, mainstream politicians are starting to listen. Four major presidential candidates—Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Julián Castro—have spoken about housing as a right.

The human right to housing is key to ending and preventing homelessness, and we’re calling for all candidates, of all parties, to support it. We have a fact sheet that makes the case for the right to housing, and it’s available for anyone to use. Please take it to town halls, candidate meetings, rallies, along with materials from the Our Homes, Our Votes: 2020 Campaign.

It’s been years since we started down this road. Real, systemic change takes time, but together we can make it happen. It’s now becoming commonplace to call health care a right, not a privilege.  A safe, decent place to live—a home—deserves nothing less.

Maria Foscarinis

Founder & Executive Director

Law Center Issues Joint Letter with ACLU to 2019 Conference of Mayors

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the ACLU of Hawai‘i issued a joint open letter to the mayors gathered to attend the 2019 U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 87th Annual Meeting. Nearly 230 mayors from across the country attended the meeting from June 28-July 1, 2019 in Honolulu, Hawai’i. The Law Center and the ACLU of Hawai’i called on the attendees to reject policies which criminalize homelessness in their cities, and instead invest in constructive, housing-based solutions to benefit their most vulnerable constituents.

The letter emphasizes that criminalizing homelessness wastes resources by “arresting and sweeping people from point A to point B and back again in an unending life-or-death game of musical chairs.” This letter also notes that criminalization also violates the Constitution, as under the Eighth Amendment, cities “may not ‘criminalize conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless—namely sitting, lying, or sleeping on the streets.’” Instead, cities should focus on investing in low-barrier shelters and adequate, affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness. The five-page letter, which was also sent to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and to Honolulu City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson, highlights that in 2018, Honolulu was among four cities inducted into the Law Center’s “Hall of Shame.” Cities earn their place in the Hall of Shame for having particularly harmful laws on the books, such as Honolulu’s “aggressive enforcement of criminalization laws.” Instead of waging a “war on homelessness” that utilizes the police, arrests, and prosecution to otherize and demonize the unhoused, the letter offers the Law Center’s “wealth of model policies and practices to help communities work within the rights guaranteed in the Constitution” to justly end homelessness.

#IAskForHelpBecause Letter Writing Campaign

Enforcing anti-panhandling laws is harmful, unconstitutional, and a waste of resources.

Last year, working with our 2018 #IAskForHelpBecause Campaign partners, we sent letters to over 220 cities challenging them to repeal their harmful & unconstitutional anti-panhandling laws and move to constructive solutions. Since then, over 40 of these cities in 11 states across the country have repealed their laws. This year, the Law Center will work with 13 partner organizations across 11 states to again challenge cities across the nation to repeal their harmful anti-panhandling ordinances. On July 17th, 2019, the Law Center and partner organizations will send letters and share media materials in a coordinated effort to fight for constrictive solutions over anti-panhandling laws. Partner organizations will also engage with their communities on a local level. Find out more about the campaign here.

Election Toolkit: #Housing2020 Launch

The Law Center is excited to launch the Election 2020 Guide to the Human Right to Housing. The guide provides information to advocates, voters, and candidates on homelessness as well as housing statistics for cities and states across the U.S. It also includes tools, like a 2020 election events calendar, an overview of causes and solutions around housing and homelessness, social media guides, hashtags to follow our updates on the election, and more.

Finally, the guide includes statistics around housing and homelessness as well as an explanation of the leading causes of homelessness in the U.S. It also makes tangible policy recommendations, such as increasing access to affordable housing and shortening homelessness by ending its criminalization, so that policymakers can demonstrate their commitment to recognizing housing as a human right. In this way, the document serves as a starting point for advocacy leading up to the 2020 presidential election.


Law Center Honors 30 Years of Advocacy

This year marks the Law Center’s 30th anniversary! We are celebrating 30 years of high impact advocacy that has changed laws and changed lives for millions. Whether it be intervening locally to ensure children can stay in the only school they have known to spearheading significant litigation to offer unused federal properties to the homeless, we at the Law Center persevere until the issue has been resolved and the impact felt by the affected individuals. As we honor 30 years of advocacy by staff, allies, and donors to help people experiencing homelessness, let us look back on our achievements and ahead to our goals.

After becoming a principal architect of the 1987 McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the first major federal legislation to address homelessness, Maria Foscarinis founded the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty in 1989 with one goal in mind: to end homelessness in America. Since then, we have used the power of the law to advocate for millions of men, women, children, and families whose voices are seldom heard.

Looking ahead, the Law Center hopes to expand our high impact advocacy while continuing to pursue our mission of using the power of the law to end and prevent homelessness. We look forward to convening and supporting our national Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign members through quarterly webinars, our monthly e-newsletter, and our annual National Forum on the Human Right to Housing. We also hope to leverage and expand our pro bono legal network in order to conduct legal research, bring litigation, and engage in policy advocacy. The Law Center is excited to capitalize on international opportunities, such as the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. by the U.N. Human Rights Council, in order to elevate directly-impacted voices, highlight the racial injustice of homelessness, and the need for the human right to housing. Finally, we look forward to encouraging political candidates of all parties to support the human right to housing and to develop policy platforms to implement that right ahead of the 2020 presidential election, as four presidential candidates (and several other leading voices in Congress, as well as in local communities across the country) have already done.

Thank you to our staff, allies, and donors for your unwavering support! For more information about the Law Center’s specific accomplishments over the past 30 years, click here to view a timeline from our 30th Anniversary Celebration.

Farewell Summer 2019 Interns, Fellows, and Volunteers

Just as fast as the summer began, it is now ending. Leaving with it are our incredibly hardworking 2019 summer interns, fellows, and volunteers.

We recently had two of our AmeriCorps VISTA Fellows, Rachel Lee and Nicole Davies complete their service in our office. It has only been a few weeks without them, and they are already deeply missed.

Our Emerson National Hunger Fellow Pierre Collins will also be concluding his time with us. In the fall, he will be attending the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Additionally, our legal interns Taylor De Laveaga and Joy Kim will finish their last year in law school, at UCLA School of Law and at NYU School of Law, respectively. As for our communications and policy interns, Connor Dale and Hashwinder Singh are completing the final year of their undergraduate degrees at Tufts University and at Georgetown University, and Crystal Letona will be completing her Truman Summer Institute program, having just graduated from Syracuse University.

Last but not least, our volunteer attorney Marta Beresin will be working at the Health Justice Alliance clinic at Georgetown University Law Center. We offer our sincere thanks to all our interns, fellows, and volunteers and wish nothing but the best for you all. We know you will all go out and do incredible work.

If you are interested in interning this fall or joining our team in a full-time position, check out our Careers & Internships page on our website. The Law Center is also accepting proposals for post-graduate legal fellowships, including Skadden, Equal Justice Works, and other fellowship programs. Interested students should apply to the Law Center before August 1, 2019. Candidates will coordinate with the Law Center to submit applications in September 2019, for work to begin in September 2020.

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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