||A publication of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
|Lawyers Working to End Homelessness
||Vol. 6, No. 11
||From Maria's Desk
It's just after Thanksgiving, a time when we
traditionally give thanks for all we have.
It's also a time when many people feel moved
to volunteer on behalf of those in need. But
in many parts of our country, this kind of
volunteerism is coming up against the
criminal justice system.
Feeding Intolerance, a new national report
published by NLCHP in partnership with the
National Coalition for the Homeless,
documents this trend: cities are now
punishing people and groups for sharing food
with poor and homeless people in public
places. It's a new, disturbing twist on the
ongoing practice by many cities to
Some cities are bucking the trend, and the
report makes recommendations supporting city
efforts to reach out to people in need. The
report also recommends federal policy changes
to increase access to aid - like food
stamps - for homeless people, who suffer
disproportionately from hunger. Click
here to read more about the report.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) touted
the findings of its new report, showing that
the number of "chronically" homeless persons
declined by approximately 12% from 2005 to
2006. That's good news for the people helped,
and it also shows we can end homelessness - if
we commit resources to solutions.
But the numbers represent only a small
fraction of a very narrowly defined part of
the homeless population. And, while the
Administration has pushed for increases in
funding for homelessness programs, it's
advocated for cuts in critical programs -
contributing to the causes of homelessness -
including proposing a $3 billion cut to the
2008 HUD budget.
Meanwhile, needy people are still on the
street. And now, even those who try to help
are being punished.
||NLCHP Surveying Advocates on Child Welfare
NLCHP is investigating the connections
between housing instability and family
involvement in the child welfare system. To
help NLCHP gain a better understanding of the
overlapping issues, as well as about how
these problems are experienced in different
regions of the country, NLCHP is surveying
lawyers and advocates representing youth
involved in the child welfare system.
Previous research by the National Center on
Family Homelessness has found that 12% of
homeless children are placed in foster care,
compared to just over 1% of other children.
Additional studies have shown that as many as
30% of children in foster care could be
reunited with their parents if safe,
affordable housing were available to the
families. In fact, family reunification data
indicates that housing and income are more
important factors than substance abuse in
determining whether children are able to
remain with their families.
If you work on this issue, please complete
the online survey here.
Also, please forward this information to
colleagues and associates who can add to
NLCHP's knowledge in this area.
||NLCHP Holds First Video-Conferenced, National Conversation on Right to Housing
On November 5th, over 200 advocates gathered
in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, New
Orleans, and Washington, D.C. for NLCHP's
annual National Forum on the Human Right to
Housing. The video conference gathered
advocates, lawyers, and service providers to
discuss housing rights violations and the
strategies participants are employing to
advocate on behalf of homeless and poor
"Residents of public housing in New Orleans
told how they are fighting bulldozers coming
to destroy their homes later this month,"
said Maria Foscarinis, NLCHP's Executive
Director. "But at each of the other
locations, people understood that their homes
will be under threat one day, too, unless we
shift the conversation in this country to one
about guaranteeing the right to housing."
Following the successful Forum, participants
will use lessons learned to continue
advocating for housing as a human right. Key
follow-up activities agreed upon include:
- Each city held a solidarity rally on
November 13th to oppose the imminent
destruction of 3,000 units of public housing
in New Orleans. These units were mostly
undamaged by Hurricane Katrina, but are now
threatened by development plans that do not
value the residents of public housing, most
of whom were women and children.
- In Los Angeles, advocates will
their work to integrate the human right to
housing into public planning documents,
including the L.A. Housing Element, as they
did in the past with the city's Ten-Year Plan
to End Homelessness.
- Advocates in Minneapolis are using
rights strategies to challenge a "lurking"
ordinance, which allows police to arrest
homeless persons even if they are not engaged
in any criminal activity.
- The Heartland Alliance for Human Rights
and Human Needs in Chicago will
campaign to cut poverty in Illinois in half
by 2015 in line with the U.N. Millennium
- In Washington, D.C., NLCHP will
coordinate the national movement. It will
also hold the U.S. accountable for racial
discrimination in housing and homelessness
before the U.N. Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination (CERD), when it
reviews the U.S. in February 2008.
here to read the conference report.
NLCHP thanks the Mertz Gilmore
Foundation, the US Human Rights
Fund, and Holland & Knight LLP for their
generous support of the Human Rights Program
and the National Forum.
||NLCHP Trains Advocates on on Housing and Education Rights for Survivors of Domestic Violence
NLCHP attorneys recently conducted a series of
trainings in Washington, D.C.; Maryland; and
Virginia on domestic violence survivors'
housing rights and their children's ability
to attend an appropriate school of the
parent's choice. Entitled "Improving Housing
and School Stability for Domestic Violence
Survivors and Their Children," the trainings
brought together advocates, attorneys, school
staff, and others working in the field.
Attendees learned about important housing
protections guaranteed under the 2005
reauthorization of the federal Violence
Against Women Act (VAWA 2005), the Fair
Housing Act, and relevant state laws. The
VAWA reauthorization ensures that domestic
violence victims who are tenants in federal
public housing and Section 8 programs are not
evicted from or denied housing because they
are victims. It also provides portability for
Section 8 vouchers, the possibility of
bifurcating a lease, and increased
housing-grant funds for victims of domestic
Attendees also learned about key education
rights for homeless children, with a focus on
the McKinney-Vento Act, which generally
ensures that homeless students have the right
to attend their school of origin or to enroll
immediately in a new school even if usually
required paperwork is not yet available.
Along with providing training materials,
NLCHP offered many of the attendees follow-up
technical assistance and referrals to local
organizations that can help resolve clients'
As a result of the trainings, DLA Piper
attorneys are now working with NLCHP to
develop a "Know Your Rights" brochure for
survivors. The brochure will be distributed
by advocates and schools, as well as at
appropriate locations where survivors can
easily access the information.
Copies of the training materials can be
For more information, please contact NLCHP's
Domestic Violence Program Staff Attorney,
Kathy Zeisel, at Kzeisel@nlchp.org, or
NLCHP's Children & Youth Staff Attorney, Joy
Moses, at Jmoses@nlchp.org.
NLCHP thanks the Freddie Mac Foundation
for its generous support of the Domestic
Violence Program and the Children
& Youth Program.
||Congress passes New Head Start Act With Homeless Child Provisions
In mid-November, Congress passed the
Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act
of 2007, which included recommendations
developed by NLCHP and its coalition
partners. The legislation completes a
multi-year process of reviewing and revising
the Head Start Act, the primary federal law
providing preschool and school readiness
programs to low income children throughout
Homeless children have historically faced
difficulties in accessing Head Start due to
their frequent residential moves and a
general lack of federal funding that prevents
communities from serving all eligible
children. A shortage of program slots leads
to waitlists that often exclude homeless
families, who never reach the top of any one
community's waitlist before moving on to
another temporary housing situation in a
The 2007 Head Start Act includes new
provisions that instruct the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services to develop
regulations that will require Head Start
Agencies to ensure that homeless children are
1) identified and receive priority for
enrollment and 2) allowed to enroll in and
attend programs while required documents are
obtained. The legislation also includes new
provisions that encourage relevant trainings
for program staff while promoting
collaborations between Head Start Agencies
and public school homeless education programs.
||Schulte Roth & Zabel Praised for Helping 'Katrina Homeless'
NLCHP would like to thank the law firm of Schulte Roth &
Zabel LLP (SRZ) for being the Presenting
Sponsor of the 2007 McKinney-Vento Awards.
SRZ continues to garner accolades for the pro
bono work it performed last year on behalf of
the "Katrina homeless". The firm's lawyers
devoted 8,000 hours to the class action suit
McWaters v. FEMA, which resulted in a
order requiring the Federal Emergency
Management Agency to provide shelter to more
than 150,000 people at risk of losing their
temporary housing. In recognition of the
firm's efforts, SRZ's Howard Godnick, Jeffrey
Sabin and Daniel Greenberg earlier this year
were all nominated for The Public Justice
Foundation's 2007 Trial Lawyer of the Year
Meanwhile, SRZ was one of the first law firms
in New York City to support the Coalition for
the Homeless' "First Step" job training
program for homeless, formerly homeless and
low-income women. The firm hosted a "Career
Day" for the graduates and extended offers of
employment to two of them.
On the litigation front, SRZ joined forces
with the New York Civil Liberties Union in
the recent filing of a class action complaint
alleging that the State of New York has
failed to provide adequate counsel to those
accused of crimes who cannot afford to pay
for a private lawyer, and a small army of SRZ
lawyers is working with the Equal Justice
Institute to abolish the practice of life
imprisonment without the possibility of
parole for juvenile offenders.
||Sullivan & Cromwell: Committed to Pro Bono Success
NLCHP would like to thank law firm Sullivan &
Cromwell LLP for being the Event Sponsor
of the 2007 McKinney-Vento Awards.
Sullivan & Cromwell is proud of their
commitment to enhancing the quality of life
and law in the communities they serve. They
encourage their lawyers to participate in pro
bono activities. They also hire one associate
each year to handle pro bono cases
exclusively, and have hired Marcia Levy as
Special Counsel for Pro Bono Initiatives.
Recent victories and ongoing projects include:
- Pipeline Crisis/Winning Strategies
Initiative. Along with Goldman Sachs and
Harvard Law School, S&C created the
Initiative to address the social and economic
concerns that have reduced the number of
black men in the pipeline to higher education
and professional endeavors. In July 2007, the
Initiative held its second highly successful
- Prisoners' rights. As co-counsel
Legal Aid Society, S&C attorneys settled a
prisoners' rights class action, leading to
reform of use of force policies and practices
in New York City jails. The Court noted that
"in the best pro bono publico tradition of
the New York City law firms, Sullivan &
Cromwell . . . provided extraordinary
lawyering and support."
- Criminal defense. In 2006, S&C lawyers
concluded an 11-year representation,
obtaining acquittal for a defendant
previously convicted of first-degree murder
and sentenced to life in prison without
- Sexual orientation discrimination. S&C
lawyers have prepared several amicus briefs
supporting the rights of gay men and lesbians
regarding adoption and marriage. The Firm
also litigated on behalf of a pro bono client
concerning rights to domestic partner
- Refugees. S&C lawyers represent
seeking asylum from political, religious and
gender-based persecution and sexual
- Domestic abuse. S&C represents
women in domestic relations proceedings.
- AIDS. Our attorneys provide estate
planning for patients at the New York
Hospital AIDS clinic.
- Literacy. S&C mentors local public
students in literacy programs and pre-law
competitions, and formed a service
partnership with Frederick Douglass Academy
(FDA) in Harlem to improve FDA's access to
advanced educational resources.
||NLCHP Holds 2007 McKinney-Vento Awards
On October 24, NLCHP held the 9th Annual
McKinney-Vento Awards Ceremony at the Hotel
Monaco in Washington, D.C. The night
celebrated organizations and leaders who have
made a significant impact in the lives of
homeless people. NLCHP also received over
$150,000 in sponsorships and donations to
support our work.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed received the
Stewart B. McKinney Award for his leadership
in advocating for working-class families and
for creating innovative solutions for
homeless people by co-sponsoring the
Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act.
Etan Thomas, of the Washington
Wizards, shared this year's Bruce F. Vento
Award with the Honorable Judge Jay C.
Zainey of the U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of Louisiana. Thomas was honored
for his outspoken, relentless advocacy on
behalf of homeless and low-income people,
including incarcerated youth and Hurricane
Katrina victims. Judge Zainey received the
award for his leadership in organizing the
Homeless Experience Legal Protection
(H.E.L.P.) Program, which provides legal
consultation and notary services at four
homeless centers in New Orleans.
Covington & Burling LLP was awarded
this year's Pro Bono Counsel Award for the
firm's two decades of commitment to ending
homelessness and for its role in securing
enactment of the landmark McKinney-Vento Act.
Rickie Slaughter was this year's
Personal Achievement Award winner. A veteran
of the Vietnam War, he struggled with
homelessness and drug addiction for twenty
years. Then he found his way to New
Directions, Inc., a rehabilitation facility
for homeless veterans in Los Angeles, where
he now works as a certified Drug Addictions
Recovery Specialist assisting other homeless
Special guests included: Master of Ceremonies
Chuck Edson, Susan Vento, wife
of the late Congressman Bruce F. Vento, and
Congressman Chris Shays.
The winner of NLCHP's artwork contest,
six-year-old Christina White, also
attended with her parents. The artwork wall,
displaying children's paintings and drawings
from this and previous years, was sponsored
by Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP.
Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Covington & Burling LLP
Visit our website at www.nlchp.org! Contact us at (202) 638-2535 or email us at
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