March, 2021 

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Dear Friends—

This is my last message as Executive Director, as I prepare to step back from that role at the end of the month, almost 32 years after founding the Law Center, and to welcome Antonia Fasanelli as the Law Center’s Executive Director.

It’s a bittersweet moment as I look back on the extraordinary, high impact work we’ve accomplished—together—over this time. I can’t thank you enough for your support and commitment. Thanks to our amazing team, and your support and advocacy, we are now at a pivotal moment: after over 25 years of vigorous and sustained advocacy, our call for the human right to housing is gaining momentum in communities across the country. At the federal level, it is now an official part of the new Administration’s agenda.

That does not mean it’s a time to let up—much work is needed to turn words into action and into concrete help for people who are suffering greatly right now. It means we are on the cusp of another paradigm shift that offers a toehold for real, systemic change. And I have no doubt that the Law Center will fully use that opening to carry forward and build on the high impact advocacy that has been our hallmark—and take it to even greater heights. I hope we can count on your support going forward.

March is women’s history month and the start of Spring, and I am looking forward to my own new chapter focusing on sharing what I have learned through continued law school teaching and writing, including working on a book and finally having my residency at the Rockefeller foundation’s Bellagio Center, postponed due to Covid, to do so. I remain committed to ending and preventing homelessness in the U.S. and to building a just, equitable, and peaceful world. I hope to remain in touch with the many friends, allies and partners I’ve met over these years.

Thank you all!

Maria Foscarinis

Founder & Executive Director

Connecticut Human Right to Housing Bill

On March 4th, the Connecticut Committee on Housing held a public hearing on S.B. 194—a landmark piece of legislation expressing the state’s commitment to progressively implement policies to respect, protect, and fulfill a right to affordable, decent, safe, and stable housing. A similar bill passed the Housing Committee last year but lapsed after the unexpected closing of the General Assembly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill would require state agencies and municipalities to consider the impact on the right to housing when adopting or revising policies and regulations. Although the bill does not direct the state to take specific policy actions to achieve the right to housing, it declares the state’s intention to advance the right and requires consideration of the right to housing in governmental decision making. The bill would also create a right to housing committee to review the state’s overall approach and to identify the needs of populations at greater risk of homelessness, housing insecurity, and their associated impacts.

On March 9th, the bill passed out of committee with a 12-3 vote. If approved by the legislature, S.B. 194 would make Connecticut the first state in the country to formally acknowledge the human right to housing. Stay tuned for further updates on the status of this bill.

Highlighting Recent Changes at the Federal Level 

This past month has been an exciting time for advocates working to end homelessness in the United States. On March 11th, Congress passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. In this bill, Biden took his first steps to fulfill his campaign promise of making housing a human right. The American Rescue Plan allocates $21.6 billion in emergency aid for low-income renters who have lost income or are otherwise experiencing hardship due to COVID-19 and risk losing their housing. It also provides $5 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers for people exiting homelessness and renters at greatest risk of homelessness if they lose their current housing. An additional $5 billion is being provided for homelessness assistance through the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. Biden has also directed incoming Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge to lead a task force on making housing a right for all.

On February 16th, Robert Marbut left his position as executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). Appointed by former President Trump, Marbut rejects the Housing First model considered by many experts to be the most effective way to end homelessness. Many homelessness advocates and members of Congress greatly disapproved of Marbut’s leadership of USICH. He has been replaced by Anthony Love who serves as the Senior Advisor and Director of Community Engagement, VHA Homeless Programs at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Love previously served as the President/CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless and has almost 25 years of experience in homelessness, Veterans, and poverty issues.

And on March 10th, Trump’s Public Charge Rule was blocked permanently at the national level. The Public Charge Rule would have prevented legal immigrants and their families from pursuing permanent residency if they or someone in their household legally uses federal public assistance programs including Medicaid, nutrition-related resources, or subsidized housing. This tactic was implemented to discourage low-income immigrant families from applying for or receiving government benefits such as housing assistance—that they are entitled to—out of fear it could jeopardize their immigration status.

The Law Center and other housing advocates celebrate these victories and look ahead with anticipation for further changes at the federal level and an end to homelessness once and for all. 

Period Poverty and the McKinney-Vento Act

Though it is not widely talked about, period poverty is a critical health crisis causing one in five girls to miss school due to a lack of menstrual products. In the United States, there are over half a million individuals facing homelessness, and even more who struggle with financial insecurity. Lack of access to period products not only causes hygiene issues for individuals experiencing homelessness, it also forces many women and girls to miss school, work, and other activities leading to increased mental health problems and other negative consequences. For homeless youth, this lack of resources is especially damaging. While existing laws protect their right to education, no current federal legislation provides them with the products they need to succeed.

Many states have funding outlined in their McKinney-Vento guidance that can be allocated to provide menstrual products for students. Since free and accessible period products in schools improve attendance, the Law Center encourages states to use this funding to give all students access to free period products.


The Law Center Has a New Address

We’ve moved, but not far! To ensure that Law Center staff can stay safe and keep working remotely, we’ve moved to a new suite in the same building. Please reach us at: 2000 M St NW, Ste. 750-E. Though we will continue to work remotely, we are able to receive checks and other documents at our new address.

Support the Foscarinis Fund!

In just two weeks, the National Homelessness Law Center will have its second-ever Executive Director, as Antonia Fasanelli joins us and Founder Maria Foscarinis moves into her next role in advocating to end and prevent homelessness.

Since founding the Law Center (then the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty) in 1989, Maria has led the organization—and the field—through changing needs, pivots, and progressions in the fight to end homelessness. In honor of her unparalleled impact, the Law Center has created the Foscarinis Fund to celebrate and commemorate the legacy of Maria’s leadership. The Foscarinis Fund will be an ongoing fund, seeded this year, that will include peer to peer fundraising, scholarship, and planned giving opportunities—in addition to the donation page that is already live.

We hope you will join us in honoring our Founder and outgoing Executive Director Maria Foscarinis by adding your name to the supporters of the Foscarinis Fund.

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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