May 2019

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Dear Friends—

Every year, the Law Center’s work benefits from thousands of hours of donated legal services from our pro bono partners. We just got the numbers for 2018, and I’m excited to share that last year alone, volunteers at law firms and corporate legal departments contributed over 7000 hours!

Our pro bono partners worked with Law Center lawyers on a wide range of projects, including:

  • A 50-state Index on Youth Homelessness that supports a campaign to reform state laws to end youth homelessness (Latham & Watkins, Carlyle Group, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and DLA Piper).
  • Major impact litigation to challenge unfair laws that punished homeless people for sleeping in public in Boise, despite the lack of shelter (Latham & Watkins); criminalized disabled homeless people in San Diego for sleeping in their RVs, their only available shelter (Fish & Richardson); and removed and destroyed the tents and property of homeless people in Puyallup, which offers no shelter at all (Perkins Coie).
  • Regulatory advocacy to challenge a rule proposed by the Trump Administration that would penalize poor immigrant families and individuals for seeking housing and food assistance (Perkins Coie).
  • Legislative advocacy to strengthen Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act, which makes unused federal property available for housing and services at no cost to service providers. (Covington & Burling).
  • A survey and report giving voice to the experience of homeless New Yorkers with the criminal justice system (Fried Frank, Cleary Gottlieb, and Goldman Sachs).

I’m profoundly grateful for these contributions—and for the financial support of many of our partners though our LEAP program. Together, these firms donated services valued at nearly $4 million in 2018 alone. Our work literally would not be possible without it! Thank you.

Maria Foscarinis

Founder & Executive Director

Recognizing Lawyers’ Executive Advisory Partners: Lunch with Rep. Katie Hill

The Law Center holds its annual luncheon to recognize its Lawyers’ Executive Advisory Partners (LEAP) Members on May 23rd. Generously hosted by LEAP Member Simpson Thacher, the lunch will feature Representative Katie Hill (CA-25) as the keynote speaker. 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. Peter Thomas, Partner at Simpson Thacher, Bruce Rosenblum, 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 will also speak at the lunch. This annual lunch recognizes the Law Center’s LEAP Members and highlights the work done by our pro bono partners.

Disaster Aid Now

On May 1st, the Law Center joined a coalition of other organizations in the Disaster Aid Now advocacy day on Capitol Hill to promote disaster relief for citizens across the country. Over 16 states and all five territories of the United States are in desperate need of disaster relief funds from the federal government. Several iterations of a disaster relief supplemental appropriations bill have passed both the House and the Senate, but none of them has gained enough bipartisan support in both chambers to become law. The Law Center met with staff in a dozen Senate offices in order to ensure that any funds that would be appropriated would help those experiencing homelessness prior to a disaster and go towards long-term, affordable housing efforts. Senate offices seemed engaged on these issues and promised to ensure funding would help the homeless community and other vulnerable populations.

This Disaster Aid Now event was a part of an ongoing effort with the Law Center to educate lawmakers on Capitol Hill on how best to serve people experiencing homelessness in the face of disasters. The Law Center has submitted congressional testimony, advocated for text in the regulation language, and met with several offices on the Hill to achieve these goals. People experiencing homelessness prior to a disaster face massive amounts of discrimination before, during, and after an emergency situation, and the law must protect this vulnerable community and work to rebuild a fairer society together when disaster strikes.

Preliminary Victory in Law Center Case

Peter Vigue is a person experiencing homelessness in Florida. He holds a small sign and does not interfere with traffic, but he has been arrested numerous times for his panhandling activity. Vigue filed a suit arguing that two Florida statutes violate his constitutional right to ask his fellow city residents for help, and on May 6, the District Court of the Middle District of Florida granted him a preliminary injunction against the Sheriff of St. Johns County and the Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. The injunction prevents police from enforcing the anti-panhandling ordinances against Vigue and suggests that Vigue has a strong likelihood of succeeding in his constitutional arguments against the anti-panhandling statute. Mr. Vigue was represented in the motion for preliminary injunction by Law Center Senior Attorney Tristia Bauman with pro bono help from Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and Southern Legal Counsel.


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Law Center Intern Defends Thesis on Encampment Sweeps

On Tuesday, April 30, Law Center Intern Patrick Geiger defended his master’s thesis in the geography department at the George Washington University. Patrick’s thesis examined the spatial distribution of homeless encampments in Washington, DC and critically analyzed the city’s repeated encampment sweeps. Combining both qualitative data from interviews with encampment residents and quantitative data from mapping and spatial analysis, Patrick showed that encampments are located in parts of the city that give people experiencing homelessness their best chance at survival. He also found that encampment sweeps come at a high cost to the city while failing to keep public spaces clean. During sweeps, encampment residents are put under significant emotional and physical duress and sometimes have important personal belongings improperly discarded. Over the course of his research, Patrick drew heavily from the Law Center’s work on encampments including our 2017 report Tent City, USA.

Homeless Woman secures National Policy Change in EPA Environmental Justice Agency

Kelly Miller, originally from Eastern Kentucky, came to D.C. to advocate for her justice in civil litigation. In the process of advocating for her own justice, Kelly was recognized nationally in 2018 by the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) as a whistleblower on law enforcement and government corruption. In that same year Kelly was nationally recognized by the U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN), with a Fighting Injustice through Human Rights Education (FIHRE) Fellowship, honoring her personal advocacy for others. Remarkably, Kelly is accomplishing these achievements while experiencing homelessness herself and sleeping on the streets of the nation’s capital.

In 2016 Kelly identified a need for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Justice agency’s support for the homeless community and lobbied the agency to include homelessness as a recognized demographic. Previous language within the Environmental Justice agency read as “poor and underserved communities” neither prior classification specifically identified “homelessness” or addressed the extreme adversity and physical exposure to the environment experienced by those experiencing homelessness. Kelly’s lobbying efforts were rewarded with the EPA including “Homelessness Issues” to their annual 2019 EPA Environmental Justice small grant opportunities. As a result of Kelly’s success homelessness representatives throughout the nation can apply for Environmental Justice grant project assistance regarding homelessness issues that had never before been offered. We celebrate with Kelly in this national victory. See more details here.

Law Center in the Media

Open Minds (5/14/19) Cities Will Be Paying More Attention To Services For The Homeless

New Republic (5/10/19) Homelessness Is Not a Crime

The Lens (5/9/19) Over opposition from mayor and advocates, City Council passes homeless encampment sweep ordinance

Governing (5/7/19) Denver Voters Deny Homeless the ‘Right to Survive.’ Here’s What That Means.

Out There Colorado (5/6/19) Can tiny home communities help fix homelessness in Colorado?

ArlNow (5/6/19) Homelessness Down in Arlington, Except for Young Adults

Washington Times (5/5/19) Denver voters to decide whether to allow homeless to set up camp in public places

Pew Trusts (4/29/19) This City Might Give Homeless People the Right to Camp Anywhere

Psych Central (4/28/19) The Foster-Care-to-Prison Pipeline

Milwaukee Courier (4/27/19) Homeless Persons Cannot Be Punished for Sleeping in Absence of Alternatives, 9th Circuit Decision Establishes

The Stute (4/26/19) It’s not a right if it can be taken away

Daily Lobo (4/25/19) Addressing the Root Causes of Homelessness

Santa Cruz Sentinel (4/24/19) Legal landscape fast-moving in Santa Cruz homeless camp evictions

Desert Sun (4/23/19) You asked, we answered: Where are people experiencing homelessness allowed to live?

KQED (4/23/19) Advocates Eye Legal Options as Homeless Are Ticketed Along River in Sacramento

Allure (4/20/19) Right to Shower Is the New Brand Ensuring Homeless People Have Access to Hygiene Services

Washington Post (4/19/19) D.C.’s homeless encampment ‘cleanups’ are only making things worse

US Human Rights Network Blog (4/19/19) FIHRE fellow Kelly Miller secures new EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant opportunity for homeless communities (4/17/19) Report: Detroit, Cleveland among ‘neediest cities’ with highest poverty levels

OpEd News (4/16/19) Homeless woman lobbys for EJ to include Homelessness into agency & secures New EJ Grant opportunity nation wide

Street Roots News (4/12/19) Cities can’t criminalize homelessness: Appeals court upholds ruling

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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