NLCHP News: Victory in Hawaii, Holding HUD Accountable, & Seeking Award Nominations
||A publication of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
|Lawyers Working to End Homelessness
||Vol. 7, No. 3
||From Maria's Desk
Earlier this month, riot police held back
poor Floridians distressed that the housing
vouchers they had waited on line for hours to
receive had run out before their turn came.
The scene, captured on video,
The obvious desperation felt by poor,
predominantly African-American women met with
the anger and fear of their affluent, mainly
white, neighbors in Palm Beach, where the
Also this month, the UN Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination charged
the US with failing to eliminate or
adequately address persistent racial
discrimination in housing, as reported in
this issue of IJT. Indeed, African-Americans
are disproportionately represented in the
homeless population, as charged by another UN
committee in 2006, and they are also
disproportionately represented in the
sub-prime mortgage crisis.
Safe, decent, affordable housing is critical
to human survival -- not to mention happiness,
productivity and general well-being. Yet
currently, only one in four Americans who are
poor enough to qualify for federal housing
assistance receive it. One in two homeless
Americans is unsheltered -- according to the US
Department of Housing and Urban Development,
which uses a narrow definition of
homelessness. These failures of the social
safety net fall disproportionately on those
who have historically been shut out and
denied equal opportunity.
This year we have a unique opportunity to
raise these issues with our elected
officials, including candidates for
President. For information on their positions
relevant to homelessness and housing to date,
compiled by NLCHP, click
Please help us get the word out!
||Victory for Homeless Students in Hawaii
In October 2007, Lawyers for Equal
the American Civil Liberties Union
and the law firm of Alston, Hunt, Floyd &
Ing, with technical assistance from
filed a class action lawsuit, Kaleuati v.
Tonda, seeking to ensure access to
education for all homeless children in
Hawaii. Hawaii's homeless children have been
regularly denied access to education, often
turned away at the school-house door for lack
of records, such as proof of residence or
birth certificates; a clear violation of the
Last month, the federal court certified the
case to proceed as a class action and ordered
the State to immediately amend its enrollment
forms and records process to ensure
identification of homeless children and
access to the protections of the
McKinney-Vento Act. We are hopeful that
fixing these procedures will prevent future
enrollment denials and help keep children in
one school, even if their family must move
around in search of shelter. The order
requires the schools to be pro-active in
identifying homeless children and ensuring
they are able to enroll and attend school.
A major barrier remaining, however, is the
lack of appropriate transportation to
homeless children living outside the
geographic boundaries of their home school.
The Court will be conducting further hearings
on transportation in the coming weeks.
This month's homeless children's news is
guest-written by William Durham, an attorney
with Lawyers for Equal Justice who is
working on the Kaleuati case. Thanks,
NLCHP would like to thank the Freddie Mac
Foundation for its support of our Children &
||NLCHP Files Amicus Brief in Orlando Food Sharing Case
On February 29, with the assistance of law
firm Goodwin Procter LLP,
NLCHP, the National Coalition for
the Homeless, the National Health Care
for the Homeless Council and the
National Policy and Advocacy Council on
Homelessness filed an amicus brief in a
case challenging Orlando's food sharing
In early 2006, the Orlando City Council
passed an ordinance that prohibits sharing
food with more than 25 people in city parks
without a permit and limits permitted groups
to doing so only two times a year. In
October of 2006 the ACLU,
representing members of Food Not Bombs
and the First Vagabonds Church,
filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging
the constitutionality of the ordinance.
NLCHP's brief focuses on the perspective of
homeless persons and the infringement on
their rights imposed by this law. It
highlights hunger challenges facing homeless
persons, the lack of adequate food resources
available to them, and the importance of
groups' ability to reach out to homeless
persons in public spaces through food sharing
activities. NLCHP also argues that the law
violates homeless persons' constitutional
rights, including their rights of expressive
and intimate association, as protected by the
First and Fourteenth Amendments; their free
exercise of religion rights under the Florida
Religious Freedom Restoration Act; and their
Fourteenth Amendment due process rights
protecting against unconstitutionally
overbroad criminal laws.
To read a copy of the brief, click
NLCHP would like to thank the Herb Block
Foundation for its support of our programs.
||NLCHP Pressures HUD to Protect Domestic Violence Survivors
In 2005, Congress unanimously reauthorized
the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), adding
important new housing provisions to the law,
including new protections for victims living
in Public and Section 8 housing. However, the
new protections have largely not been
enforced, and HUD has neglected its duty to
implement the law.
VAWA is critical to protecting victims and
their families and preventing homelessness
-- at least 25% of homeless women report that
domestic violence was the direct cause of
their homelessness, and victims often stay in
abusive relationships because they have no
safe place to go with their families.
HUD is responsible for approving the Housing
Authorities' plans and often has direct
contact with Project-Based Section 8
providers. Without HUD's involvement, it
seems unlikely that the law will be applied
universally and consistently. Advocates
around the country continue to see these
evictions occur, despite VAWA.
In February and March, NLCHP met with
legislators on committees with oversight over
HUD to discuss these problems. Staffers were
distressed to learn about the lack of
implementation, and are working with NLCHP
and our partner organizations on this issue.
At House oversight hearings, Rep.
Roybal-Allard (D-CA) submitted questions in
writing to HUD Secretary Jackson and asked
two Assistant Deputy Secretaries for more
information about VAWA implementation by HUD.
Sens. Dodd and Shelby also submitted written
questions to Secretary Jackson following the
Senate hearing. NLCHP, along with several other
organizations, also submitted a written
statement to the House Financial Services
Committee and the Senate Budget Committee.
NLCHP's statement to the House Financial
Services Committee is available here.
NLCHP's statement to the Senate Banking
Committee is available here.
NLCHP would like to thank the Waitt Family
Foundation for its support of the Domestic
||UN: U.S. Racial Discrimination Must Be Remedied
On March 7 in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN
Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination issued its Concluding
Observations charging the U.S. to do more to
remedy the effects of racial discrimination
in housing and other areas.
The Observations come after the formal review
of the U.S.'s report to the Committee under
the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination. This is a required procedure
for all signatories to the treaty, which the
U.S. ratified in 1994.
NLCHP coordinated more than 60 housing and
homelessness organizations participating in
the review, and was able to achieve a number
of concrete comments from the Committee on
housing issues. These include praising a
California law that requires cities to plan
for affordable housing needs, a direct
condemnation of segregated and inadequate
housing in communities of color, a call for a
right to a lawyer in civil cases involving
housing rights, and a critique of the
inadequate response to the housing needs of
those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
NLCHP will continue to work with partner
groups to implement these recommendations in
legislation and litigation across the country.
To read more about the Committee's
NLCHP would like to thank the Butler
Family Foundation and the U.S. Human Rights
Fund for its support of the Human Rights
||Moore and Davis to Ask for $2 Billion for HUD McKinney Programs.
As Congress prepares for Fiscal Year
2009 (FY09) appropriations, Reps. Gwen Moore
(D-WI) and Geoff Davis (R-KY) are leading an
effort in the House of Representatives to
seek $2 billion for the McKinney-Vento
Homeless Assistance programs administered by
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD). The HUD McKinney programs
provide funding for emergency shelter,
transitional housing, permanent housing, and
case management services for homeless persons.
The HUD McKinney programs will need a
substantial increase in order to reach more
families and individuals who are not
currently receiving services. According to
HUD data, approximately 44% of the homeless
population is unsheltered on any given night.
For Fiscal Year 2008, Congress provided
approximately $1.586 billion. Any effort to
homelessness and serve the 44% of the
population who are not in housing or shelter
on any given night will require a much more
Rep. Moore and Rep. Davis sent a
letter to Congressional appropriators to ask
for $2 billion for the HUD McKinney programs
for FY09, a 26% increase above
FY08 levels. President Bush has requested a
3.5% increase for FY09.
NLCHP and other national advocates are
working with Reps. Moore and Davis to seek
increased McKinney funding. A total of 85
Members of Congress have signed on
to the letter to the Appropriations Committee.
A list of the current signers is
Please take a moment to
check the list. If your Representative has
signed, please send them a letter or email to
thank them. If they have not, please call or
write to them and ask them to ask
Appropriators for more funding for
McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs.
For more information, contact Laurel Weir at
NLCHP by phone (202-638-2535) or email.
||NLCHP Welcomes New LEAP Member!
NLCHP is proud to add Greenberg
Traurig, LLP to our growing list of
Advisory Partners (LEAP) members.
Greenberg Traurig's pro bono work spans
almost every area of public interest law.
The firm's lawyers regularly help the people
in their communities on matters as
wide-reaching as human rights and economic
development and as personal as domestic
violence, children's issues and immigration.
The firm's pro bono work includes
representing low-income residents of the
District of Columbia in home ownership,
family law, conservatorship and consumer
Recently, Greenberg Traurig worked with
NLCHP and local advocates to provide research
and analyze a survey of DC homeless
individuals in order to improve police
policies toward unsheltered homeless people.
||Now Accepting Nominations: 2008 Personal Achievement Award
NLCHP is now accepting nominations for the 2008
Personal Achievement Award! Each year, NLCHP
honors an individual who has experienced
homelessness to recognize his
or her accomplishments and service to those
still experiencing homelessness. This person
will be recognized for his or her personal
achievement as a formerly homeless person at
the 2008 McKinney-Vento Awards ceremony.
A full description of award criteria is
To nominate someone, please
Bittner with a brief, one
page description of your candidate detailing
how they meet the criteria.
The deadline for submissions is May 1,
For more information about the McKinney-Vento
Awards, please visit our website
||Seeking Submissions: Children's Art Contest!
NLCHP is hosting its annual artwork contest
for homeless and low-income children and
youth! Each year, NLCHP selects one winner
and two runners-up whose artwork will be
featured at the McKinney-Vento Awards
ceremony, along with other selected artwork
from this and previous years' contests. The
winning artwork will also be used on the
awards presented to the other honorees at the
event, and may be used in other NLCHP
materials. Last year's McKinney-Vento event
featured an artwork display sponsored by the
firm Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP.
Submissions will be accepted from children
enrolled in after-school programs or
art-related organizations serving homeless
and low-income children. Entries in the
contest must meet all criteria listed in the
guidelines, and must also include an
entry & release form signed
by a parent or legal guardian. Guidelines and
forms are available here.
If you know of an after-school group or
children and youth organization in the DC
metro area that might like to participate in
the contest, please e-mail Katherine
with their contact information.
For more information about the McKinney-Vento
Awards, please visit our website
Katherine Bittner by email or at
The deadline for submissions is June 15,
Visit our website at www.nlchp.org! Contact us at (202) 638-2535 or email us at
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