Founder and Executive Director Maria Foscarinis Stepping Down from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty



Contact:  Shaina Amaya

Tel: 202-827-2165


(August 3, 2020, Washington, D.C.) – The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) announced today that Founder and Executive Director Maria Foscarinis is stepping down later this year after leading the organization for 31 years.

Under Maria’s leadership, the Law Center recently completed a strategic rebranding process and is becoming the National Homelessness Law Center. Although the name and look have evolved to reflect the organization’s impact and continued growth, the Law Center’s vision for an end to homelessness in America remains unchanged.

Maria, a pioneer in national advocacy for people experiencing homelessness and a key architect of the landmark McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act—the first and still only major federal legislation addressing homelessness—founded the Law Center in 1989 with one goal in mind: to end homelessness in America. Across the past thirty-one years the Law Center has used the power of the law to advocate in legislatures and courts across the country for millions of men, women, children and families whose voices are seldom heard.

Guided by Maria’s vision, the Law Center has pursued a unique strategy focused on high level law and policy reform, while also ensuring its impact is felt in people’s lives. The Law Center has set national legal precedent positively affecting millions of lives, including: establishing homeless children’s right to education; requiring federal agencies to turn over vacant properties at no cost to community groups to house and aid homeless people; and establishing the unconstitutionality of laws criminally punishing people for their homelessness. It has advocated successfully for new rights for vulnerable renters and for domestic violence survivors, and for increased access to aid for disabled homeless people; it has developed tools for advocates to hold states accountable to homeless youth. Under Maria’s leadership, the Law Center launched the Housing Not Handcuffs campaign, calling for an end to criminalization in favor of the human right to housing. Currently, the Law Center is addressing the impact of COVID-19 on homeless people, as well as the long-standing, deliberate, structural racism that drives homelessness and its disproportionate racial impact.

“Maria put into practice what so many of us talked about when starting law school: using the power of the law to make the world a better place. Over the years, Maria and the Law Center have been instrumental in enacting and implementing numerous federal laws addressing the homelessness crisis,” said Eric Bensky, Chair of the Law Center’s Board of Directors. “Most recently, under Maria’s leadership the Law Center has been especially focused on meeting the challenges the novel coronavirus poses for people experiencing homelessness, including helping to prevent or overturn laws that prohibit people from sleeping in tents or cars when they have nowhere else to stay, issuing policy guidance that was then adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and advocating for all students to have access to distance learning.  Maria’s dedication and tireless efforts over the past three decades have positioned the Law Center and its talented and dedicated staff to continue fulfilling its mission in the years to come.”

“It has been an honor for me to have founded and led the Law Center over the past 31 years, in partnership with a talented and inspiring staff, an accomplished Board of Directors, and an amazing cadre of pro bono lawyers who support and amplify our work,” said Maria. “I leave the organization with a strong foundation of dedicated board leadership, stable financial resources, and a strategy implemented through the tireless efforts of a passionate and talented team. I am happy and proud of the work we have all accomplished together, and I leave knowing the organization is on solid footing and will thrive over the years to come.”

The Board of Directors has retained the executive search firm LeaderFit to lead the national search for Maria’s successor. Maria will continue to lead the Law Center until her successor has been identified and will be involved during the transition. The complete job description may be found here. All inquiries should be directed to Shaina Amaya at


The Law Center is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to prevent and end 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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