This weekend marks Juneteenth, commemoration of the day–two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation–enslaved persons in Galveston, Texas were informed of its existence.
Our country’s legacy of racism continues to this day. Homelessness and the carceral system disproportionately affect Black and Brown persons and are systems of ongoing racial oppression.
We are grateful for the work of our peer organizations, such as Denver Homeless Out Loud, which use their platforms to highlight the deep connection between the issue of homelessness and all forms of oppression. Read more about some of their incredible work below!
We encourage all our supporters–as we are doing ourselves–to reflect on how we can all play a part in making our country and our world actively anti-racist.
The Staff of the National Homelessness Law Center
Housing is a Human Right Act of 2021
The Law Center is proud to have worked with U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Grace Meng (NY-06), who earlier this month introduced the Housing is a Human Right Act of 2021. The bill will “address and end root causes of homelessness; transition communities towards providing housing for all; and ensure full democratic participation of persons experiencing homelessness.”
This transformative legislation will authorize more than $300 billion for crucial housing infrastructure to reduce homelessness across America. This urgent proposal will invest more than $200 billion in necessary affordable housing and support services.
Additionally, the bill puts forward $27 billion a year for homelessness services, provides $100 million a year for community-driven alternatives to criminalization of those experiencing homelessness, and makes targeted investments in communities at disproportionate risk of homelessness.
To view the full text of the bill, click here.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Report
On June 2, 2021, the United States government sent the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) a report which discusses measures of U.S. undertakings to address racial discrimination in the United States. As a result of Law Center advocacy in 2014, the report addressed the intersection of criminalization of homelessness and racial discrimination, as well as issues of housing discrimination (see sections starting at para. 45).
While the Law Center welcomes the U.S. report’s coverage of the federal government’s important steps to combat criminalization of homelessness and discrimination in housing, we know these steps have been insufficient to date, and both practices remain rampant at the local level.
This report kicks off a series of events which will culminate in the oral review of the U.S. in Geneva, which has not yet been scheduled. The Law Center will look to coordinate with others to take advantage of this important opportunity to highlight the intersection of racial discrimination with housing and homelessness issues in the U.S.
10th Circuit Amicus Brief in Support of Denver Homeless Out Loud Injunction
In Denver Homeless Out Loud v. Denver, Denver Homeless Out Loud and a group of people experiencing homelessness represented by Kilmer, Lane, & Newman, LLP successfully obtained a preliminary injunction to stop Denver from conducting sweeps of homeless encampments without at least 48-hours’ advance notice, even when Denver alleges a public health justification for the sweep. Denver appealed the order to the Tenth Circuit.
On June 16th, the Law Center, with support from visiting law professor Joseph Mead, submitted an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs-Appellees. The brief argues that Denver’s practice of conducting sweeps of homeless encampments without advance notice violates due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and results in erroneous and harmful deprivation of homeless people’s survival gear and other personal property. The brief also argues that the injunction is in the public interest because Denver’s sweeps practice threatens public health and wastes public resources in the process.
If the preliminary injunction is upheld on appeal, it will establish critical new precedent in the Tenth Circuit to protect the basic rights of homeless people.
Blake v. City of Grants Pass Amicus Brief
In Blake v. City of Grants Pass, a class of homeless plaintiffs represented by the Oregon Law Center successfully challenged a combination of city policies that punish unhoused people for resting and taking necessary steps to stay warm and dry in public space even though Grants Pass lacks an emergency shelter. The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon found that Grants Pass’ policies violate the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments clause. This case is the first to clarify that the Eighth Amendment, as interpreted in Martin v. City of Boise, prohibits cruel and unusual punishment whether the punishment is designated as civil or criminal.
The case is currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, and the Law Center joined with the National Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Rights Advocacy Projectto submit an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs-Appellees. The amicus brief, prepared with pro bono support from Dechert LLP, argues that Grants Pass’ policies punish involuntary homelessness, jeopardize public health and safety, and worsen the homelessness crisis while wasting public resources. The Law Center also joined with the University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic and Leilani Farha, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, to submit an amicus brief arguing that punishing homelessness violates fundamental human rights.
If summary judgment is affirmed on appeal, this case will build on the success of Martin v. City of Boise–precedent established in litigation by the Law Center, Idaho Legal Aid, and Latham & Watkins–to limit punitive approaches to homelessness and, instead, encourage constructive solutions to the crisis.
Universal Vouchers: Ending Homelessness and Expanding Economic Opportunity in America
On June 9th, Representative Maxine Waters led the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services’ virtual hearing on universal vouchers. The hearing featured several expert voices including Ann Oliva of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Mary Cunningham of the Urban Institute, Ben Metcalf of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, and Chancela Al-Mansour of the Housing Rights Center.
These speakers highlighted the negative effects of housing discrimination based on source of income, the need for improvement in the annual Point-In-Time counts, and the dire necessity to provide housing vouchers to families with back rent who are at risk of experiencing homelessness, especially once the eviction moratorium ends.
You can learn more about the proposed legislation and view a recording of the hearing here.
Bring America Home Now: A Comprehensive Grassroots Campaign to End Homelessness in the U.S
The National Coalition for the Homeless is spearheading the launch of Bring America Home Now: A Comprehensive Grassroots Campaign to End Homelessness in the U.S. Led by people who have themselves experienced homelessness, the Campaign will focus on the passage of federal legislation aimed at addressing the interconnected solutions to the decades-long epidemic of homelessness in the United States. The National Homelessness Law Center is honored to support this Campaign.
Please join the National Coalition for the Homeless for a virtual kick-off event today, June 17, 2021 at 3pm EST/Noon PST and sign your organization on to the campaign.
NEWS from the LAW CENTER
Welcoming New Team Members to the Law Center
The Law Center is excited to have several interns, fellows, and AmeriCorps VISTAs join our team this summer!
Janet Hostetler is a Senior Fellow at the Law Center, where she works primarily on federal advocacy related to the right to housing and ending the criminalization of homelessness. Until 2018, Janet served as the deputy director of the Law Center, directly supporting the Law & Policy team and the Operations team in their work to end and prevent homelessness and to protect the rights of people experiencing homelessness.
As an Obama administration official, she served as Chief of Staff of the Office on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the Department of Housing & Urban Development. At HUD, Janet worked on the administration’s policy priorities including efforts to address racial segregation, as well as strategic planning and change management. She also has experience in protecting voter rights, education policy, appellate legal advocacy, and international human rights. Janet’s believes the answer to many of our problems is found at the intersection of economic justice, racial justice, gender equity, ecological conservation, and participatory democracy. She enjoys gardening with native plants and being in nature.
Burhan Abdi is joining the Law Center as a Legal Intern. He is excited to return to the Law Center, where he worked as Policy Intern during his junior year of college. The experience Burhan had at the Law Center was one of the main reasons he went to law school, and he hopes to use what he has learned in his time away to make an impact. Last summer, Burhan worked on writing clemency petitions for survivors of domestic violence who are incarcerated in Michigan.
Burhan is a rising 3L at the University of Michigan Law School. Burhan studied economics and government at Cornell University.
Carla Ramazan recently graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with degrees in Political Science and Spanish. During college, she was heavily involved in student activism and organized a teach-in focused on housing insecurity in the Dallas area. She is excited to work with the Law Center during her time as a Truman Fellow. A strong believer that housing is a human right, Carla is thrilled to learn from the staff at the Law Center and hopes to tackle issues related to homelessness in her future career as an attorney.
Joe Stewart joined the Law Center’s Law and Policy team as a Policy Intern in June 2021. Having spent time working with refugee communities in the DMV area, Joe wants to use his experience and skills to help ensure more just and equitable support for people experiencing homelessness across the country. He is looking forward to working with the Law Center team and learning from its engaged staff and attorneys.
Joe is entering his senior year at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service studying Culture and Politics and minoring in Film and Media Studies. Originally from Seattle, Washington, Joe hopes to continue working to end homeless both at home and nationally.
Abby Anger serves as a Policy Intern at the Law Center, where she works alongside the Law and Policy team. Abby brings a host of previous legislative experiences to NHLC, as she has interned with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Senate Majority Leader Charles Shumer (D-NY), the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, and the Bipartisan Policy Centers’ Governmental Affairs Team.
Abby is a rising senior majoring in Political Science and Psychology with minors in Hispanic Studies and Theology at The Catholic University of America. She has been accepted to Teach for America, and will be teaching elementary school in Charlotte, North Carolina after graduation.
Camille Santa Anna is the Development and Communications intern for the Law Center. She is currently a rising senior at William & Mary pursuing a double major in Government and Sociology. She has an interest in politics and has previous internship experience with the Fairfax Democratic Committee. At William and Mary Camille also participated in a community-based service-learning program, during her Freshman year. Within this program she had the opportunity to volunteer with Side-by-Side, Virginia’s only LGBTQ+ youth center. There she helped organize the center’s new project focused on youth homelessness. This, and a passion for human rights policy, sparked her interest in housing/homelessness. Additionally, Camille is interested in learning more about law and looking ahead to pursue graduate studies.
Joseph Mead, a law professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, is serving as a visiting faculty fellow with the Law Center this summer. Prof. Mead has advocated against and litigated constitutional challenges to anti-panhandling, anti-camping, and anti-loitering laws.
Alexandra Taggart will be working as a Data Integration Vista member at the National Homeless Law Center with a focus in building organizational capacity to contribute to equal economic opportunity and expansion. As a child her grandmother, a retired D.C. police officer, was her babysitter so she would attend District V Coffee Club meetings. Being the Co-Facilitator, her grandma spoke at most of these events in community forums and seminars discussing issues affecting the community where she lived such as: transportation, education, and development. Attending these events at an early age created Alexandra’s passion for helping others through acts of humanitarianism. As for the future, she is planning to have a socially concerned career.
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.