Earlier this month, at our annual National Forum on the Human Right to Housing, participants from around the country came together to share ideas, strategies, and inspiration to move forward our work for Housing Not Handcuffs.
It was an amazing group of people. Participants included homeless and formerly homeless people whose lives have been directly affected by both criminalization and the lack of housing; police officers who stand with us in support of housing not handcuffs; lawyers and other advocates working to challenge criminalization and promote housing; and members of the funding community.
We were proud to be able to offer 20 scholarships to cover travel and other expenses to ensure homeless and other low-income participants could be at the table. I was especially moved by a note we received from one of our scholars right after the Forum, who said: “I truly have had a life altering experience. Meeting so many outspoken passionate individuals has made me realize that all the noise that I make in my community are shared worldwide.”
I think all of us were altered in some way by the experience—by sharing, learning, reaffirming our commitment to fundamental fairness and human rights—and realizing, again, that we are not alone.
It’s a critical time to build our solidarity and our movement. Homelessness affects all of us who care about justice. But it disproportionately affects already marginalized communities: people of color, especially African Americans, who make up 40% of the homeless population, compared to 21% of the poverty population and 13% of the US population. A disproportionate 40% of youth experiencing homelessness on their own are LGBTQ+, something to which we draw special attention now during Pride month. We work to fight these inequities every day, in court, in legislatures, and with tools, resources and outreach.
We are grateful for the generous support of our host, our long time law firm partner Hogan Lovells, for underwriting event costs; the Oak Foundation, which is supporting our work; and our event sponsors, Fish & Richardson, Ballard Spahr, Microsoft Corporation, and Trader Joes.
Read more about the Forum below, and view photos from the event here.
Thank you for your support!
Founder & Executive Director
National Forum on the Human Right to Housing
On June 5 and 6th, more than 115 advocates, attorneys, currently and formerly homeless individuals, funders, and law enforcement officials gathered in Washington, D.C. for the annual National Forum on the Human Right to Housing. This year, the Forum’s focus was on how to capitalize on the Martin v. Boise decision in the 9th Circuit and beyond. This year’s Forum featured keynote addresses from Amanda Andere of Funders Together to End Homelessness and Andrea Ritchie of the Barnard Center for Research on Women. The event provided the opportunity to share victories and challenges and strategize for future advocacy. There were sessions on next steps after Martin v. Boise with regards to litigation, communications, and policy as well as sessions on the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign, the #IAskForHelpBecause Campaign, racial equity, and law enforcement. A Forum report will be released shortly.
Law Center Submits Amicus Brief On Behalf of Homeless Litigant
Laws restricting living in vehicles—even when a vehicle is a person’s only reliable form of shelter—are the fastest growing laws criminalizing homelessness nationwide. Impounds, fines, and other enforcement of such laws are devastating to people who rely upon their vehicles for shelter, transportation, and a place to store personal property. Moreover, enforcement is costly to taxpayers, as cities typically lose money—even thousands of dollars—on each tow of a homeless person’s vehicle home.
The Law Center works to combat this growing trend, including by supporting litigation of our Housing Not Handcuffs Justice Network members to invalidate policies unfairly punishing people who live in vehicles. On May 29th, the Law Center submitted an amicus brief to the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington, Division I in Long v. City of Seattle, a lawsuit brought by Columbia Legal Services on behalf of Steven Long. Mr. Long, a low-income worker in Seattle, became homeless after he was unable to afford Seattle’s rapidly increasing market rents. He lived in his truck, which was parked in an unused gravel lot in an industrial area. Even though it was evident that Mr. Long lived in his vehicle, the city chose to tow and impound his vehicle – along with all of his personal property – for violation of a minor parking infraction. In doing so, the city left Mr. Long without any shelter on a stormy night.
The amicus brief argues both that the impound of Mr. Long’s vehicle, along with the exorbitant fees imposed on him to retrieve his vehicles, violated the Excessive Fines clause of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and that the city of Seattle violated Mr. Long’s right to be free from state created danger, a substantive due process right under the Fourteenth Amendment. The brief also described how laws restricting living in vehicles worsens the homelessness crisis and wastes limited taxpayer resources on harmful enforcement practices. The brief was submitted on behalf of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project at Seattle University School of Law, and the Law Office of Elena Garella.
A Successful Lawyers’ Executive Advisory Partners Luncheon
The Law Center held its annual luncheon to recognize its Lawyers’ Executive Advisory Partners (LEAP) Members on May 23rd. Generously hosted by LEAP Member Simpson Thacher, the lunch was attended by 55 lawyers representing 20 law firms, as well as keynote speaker Representative Katie Hill (CA-25) and members of her staff. Representative Hill is a new member of Congress who was the Executive Director of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), the largest homeless services organization in California. Additional speakers at the lunch included Peter Thomas, Partner at Simpson Thacher, Bruce Rosenblum, a Managing Director at The Carlyle Group, Michael Bern, Partner at Latham and Watkins, Patti Mugavero, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at JP Morgan Chase, Jim Bendernagel, Partner at Sidley Austin and Maria Foscarinis. This annual lunch recognized the Law Center’s LEAP Members and highlighted the work done by our pro bono partners.
NEWS from the LAW CENTER
Alone Without a Home Report Interview
In May, Law Center Volunteer Attorney Marta Beresin was interviewed by the National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth & Families about the Law Center’s recent release of the 2019 Alone Without a Home: A National Review of State Laws Affecting Unaccompanied Youth. The report analyzes how each state and U.S. territory treats unaccompanied homeless youth in areas ranging from access to supports like SNAP, TANF, and health insurance, to whether youth can consent to and receive confidential healthcare, shelter, and substance abuse treatment. If you are a service provider or an advocate looking for an additional tool to help youth or improve your state laws, you can find the guide here and Marta’s interview here.
2019 Summer Interns
We’re pleased to welcome the following interns for the Law Center’s 2019 Summer Intern Program:
Connor Dale is a rising senior at Tufts University studying political science and economics, and part of the Tufts University Tisch College Summer Fellows program. He has worked in the nonprofit and social impact sector at organizations like the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network and Rosie’s Place, focusing mainly on developmental work, communications, and finances, but recently his interests have shifted towards public interest law and policy. While he will largely be involved with development and communications work at the Law Center, Connor is hoping that he will be able to bridge his past and current interests by witnessing how lawyers at the Law Center use the power of the law to bring about social change.
Joy Kim is a rising third-year law student and a Moelis Fellow for Urban Law and Policy at New York University School of Law. After growing up in Brea, CA, she received a B.A. in Urban Studies and Classical Studies at Trinity College in CT. Joy went to law school to pursue a career fighting for a right to housing, whether that be through litigation or policy. Her past experiences have been on both coasts and include local and state government, legal aid, and supportive housing development.
Taylor de Laveaga is a rising fourth-year JD/MPP candidate at the UCLA School of Law and the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Taylor has been working on issues related to homelessness since she was an undergraduate at Seattle University. She serves as chair of the law school’s homelessness legal clinic, and recently completed her public policy capstone project which examined homelessness prevention programs in Los Angeles County. As a student, she has worked in policy and advocacy with the ACLU, as well as worked with clients who were experiencing homelessness while subjected to the criminal legal system, arguing on their behalf in bail hearings and diversion proceedings. Taylor hopes to spend her time at the Law Center learning from advocates who use the law on behalf of society’s most vulnerable members.
Crystal Letona is a graduate from Syracuse University and headed towards a career in public service. Before pursuing a dual degree program in law and public policy to work at the forefront of sexuality and gender legal and legislative issues, she plans to take a year off to work in D.C. Crystal intends to study the intersections of homelessness and health further in order to gain an understanding of how to reduce an individual’s risk of severe health conditions and multiple systemic barriers to housing.
Hashwinder Singh is from Tacoma, WA and is a rising senior at Georgetown University. He is pursuing a major in government with a minor in history. On campus, Hashwinder works on a variety of racial and social justice oriented projects, such as writing opinion columns about the experience of marginalized identities on campus and mentoring those at the New Beginnings Juvenile Detention Center. Furthermore, Hashwinder is a Patrick Healy Fellow, which is a social justice oriented Fellowship at the University. Hashwinder spent the summer of 2018 working as an intern at the DC Public Defenders Services and has spent the last year working for Georgetown Professor Marc Howard’s Prisons and Justice Initiative. Moving forward, Hashwinder is particularly interested in both working to combat issues that relate to urban poverty and criminal justice reform. In his free time, Hashwinder enjoys watching and rewatching Oscar winning films.
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.