NLCHP News: Shortchanging Survivors
||A publication of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
|Lawyers Working to End Homelessness
||Vol. 8, No. 12
||From Maria's Desk
Human Rights Day
December 10 was Human Rights Day, a global
event marking human rights of all kinds. It
is a basic tenet of human rights law that
all rights are interdependent. For example,
it's hard to fully exercise your right to
freedom of speech when you're trying to
figure out your next meal or where to sleep.
While recognizing that basic principle, at
the Law Center we pay special attention to
economic and social human rights-especially
right to housing.
So on Human Rights Day, we remembered one
homeless man, whom I'll call Victor, who is
missing part of one leg. He usually gets
around in a wheelchair, and has become a
friend and frequent visitor to our office.
Now middle aged, he lost his leg when he was
hit by a car as a young man. Without good
legal representation, he received little
compensation despite having lost his ability
to work in construction, which had been his
trade. With our help, and the help of other
friends, he now has a part-time job and a
temporary place to stay-but he is still
waiting for a permanent place to live.
As the holidays approach, many of us are
invited to celebrations of all kinds. I was
honored to be invited to one of the White
House parties. The pomp and generous
surroundings at these parties stand in stark
contrast to the life of Victor and the
millions more like him who suffer so greatly,
and so needlessly, in the midst of what is
still the richest nation on earth.
But there is also opportunity. Those of us
who are not homeless, or hungry, or poor, can
be emissaries for those who are. Those of us
who have access to those in power must use
that access to make the case: No one should
be poor or homeless in America. All human
beings have a right to housing.
Please join us this holiday season in doing
our part to uphold the human rights we marked
on December 10. Please join us in honoring
Victor and all those who suffer and struggle
because of injustice in our midst. To support
our work, click
||New Report: Shortchanging Domestic Violence Survivors
Despite a federal law that could improve
access to the major federal welfare program
for the poor (Temporary Aid to Needy
Families, or TANF) for domestic violence
survivors, many survivors are being denied
this potentially life-saving aid. A new
report released today by the Law Center
shows how poor state and local implementation
of an important federal waiver can leave
survivors in severe economic distress.
Access to TANF benefits is especially crucial
for these families right now. During the
recession, instances of domestic violence
have risen at alarming rates.
Domestic violence survivors often find
themselves facing severe financial challenges
when they leave their abusive relationships.
In order to afford living apart from their
abusers and to obtain adequate housing, many
try to obtain TANF assistance. However,
TANF's requirements to seek employment and
child support can be major challenges for
these women. As they work to rebuild their
lives, domestic violence survivors often must
attend court dates, medical appointments, and
therapy, but these can complicate the search
for employment. Additionally, seeking child
support from an abuser may require a victim
to face the abuser even when it is not safe
to do so.
To assist these women, Congress authorized
the Family Violence Option waiver as a part
of the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (also
known as "welfare reform"), which provides an
exemption for survivors from certain TANF
requirements. However, implementation of the
waiver by local governments has often proven
to be ineffective and inadequate.
The Law Center's report offers case studies
of three cities: New York, Washington, DC and
San Francisco, which illustrate the
significant problems or shortcomings in the
way the waiver is being implemented. It also
provides recommendations to federal, state,
and local governments to improve abused
women's access to the TANF benefits, as well
as recommendations to local TANF offices,
advocates and service providers.
To read the report, "Shortchanging Survivors:
Family Violence Options for TANF benefits,"
||Senate Introduces Homeless Education Reauthorization Bill
On November 19, U.S. Senators Patty Murray
and Al Franken introduced the "Educational
Success for Children and Youth Without Homes
Act of 2009," S. 2800, and the "Fostering
Success in Education Act of 2009," S. 2801.
Both bills are based in large part on
recommendations developed through a broad
consultation process with schools, service
providers, and homeless individuals by the
Law Center and our partners at the National
Association for the Education of Homeless
Children & Youth (NAEHCY).
The "Educational Success for Children and
Youth Without Homes Act of 2009"
reauthorizes and amends the McKinney-Vento
Act's Education for Homeless Children and
Youth program and related laws. The
amendments reinforce and expand the
McKinney-Vento Act's protections of homeless
childrens' right to attend school, and
crucially expands funding to meet
transportation needs. A summary of the
legislation is available here.
The status of foster children under present
education law may be ambiguous, but their
need is not. Thus, the "Fostering Success in
Education Act of 2009" establishes a new
education program to ensure that all children
and youth in foster care have school
stability, immediate school access, and
support for academic success similar to
homeless students, but not competing with
them for resources.
NLCHP thanks Senators Murray and Franken for
their attention to the needs of homeless
children and youth, and encourages its
readers to call their Senators and ask them
to co-sponsor these important pieces of
||U.S. to Conduct Regional Meetings on Human Rights
The U.S. government is planning to conduct
regional meetings to solicit input for its
report to the UN Human Rights Council under
the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.
They will be visiting New Orleans, LA;
Birmingham, AL; New York City, NY; Dearborn,
MI; Phoenix, AZ; and San Francisco, CA, as
well as a to-be-determined Indian reservation
between January and March 2010. Specific
dates have not yet been determined, but the
first will likely be New Orleans in
Each site will likely have a full day of
panels and individual testimony, with a
variety of federal agencies, including the
Department of Housing & Urban Development,
The Law Center is encouraging housing and
homeless advocates to participate in these
meetings. This will be an excellent
opportunity to reiterate concerns raised
during the visit of the UN Special
Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and UN Advisory
Group on Forced Evictions, as well as
raise new issues.
NLCHP will also be facilitating a "shadow
report" for the Human Rights Council on
housing and homelessness issues, which is due
in April 2010.
If you have any questions or are interested
in participating in the site visits or
contributing to the report, please contact
Human Rights Program Director Eric Tars.
For more information about the UPR process
as a whole, contact Laura
Baum to be added to the UPR coordinating
||The Tattered Safety Net
On Tuesday, December 15, Maria Foscarinis
participated in a panel discussion entitled
"The Tattered Safety Net: Anti-Poverty
Policies in the Current Recession" at the
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The panel also included:
Peter Edelman - Georgetown University Law
School, Barbara Ehrenreich - Journalist and
such books as Nickel and Dimed,
Alice O'Connor - University of California -
Santa Barbara, Margaret Simms - Urban Institute.
The discussion examined the recession's
impact on poverty rates, questioned whether
current anti-policy poverty is sufficient to
address the need, and assessed the Obama
administration's plans to alleviate
joblessness and poverty.
You can view a video of the panel discussion
||Also of Interest...
- A recent class action lawsuit settlement
requires the Social Security Administration
(SSA) to stop suspending benefits based on
the existence of an outstanding arrest
warrant. The SSA must also pay back all
benefits they did not pay or that they
collected as overpayments. For more
- A new
report released by the UCLA Civil Rights
Project demonstrates how policy regarding
the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program,
the government's largest program for building
subsidized housing, tends to place these
homes in areas with low performing schools.
||"My Experience with the Law Center": Jane Moisan
Working this fall at the National Law Center
on Homelessness & Poverty was an amazing
experience for me. As a third year law
student at Northeastern Law School, in the
Program for Human Rights and the Global
Economy, I have had the opportunity to study
human rights law and housing in Geneva,
Switzerland and participate in Europe in
state reporting mechanisms, and regional
human rights cases. However, I loved my time
working at the Law Center, not just because
of the great staff, but also because I had
the opportunity to apply these standards in
the United States.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on
Adequate Housing made her first official
visit to the United States during my
fellowship, and I was able to help coordinate
testimony from around the country. I learned
about campaigns across the country to fight
the criminalization of homelessness, and to
obtain fair and affordable housing. It was an
honor to meet these people, learn about their
work, and be a part of a growing national
movement for the human right to housing.
The work I did at the Law Center involved a
lot of education and outreach, from helping
people to apply human rights standards to
their own community, to interpreting federal
legislation to assist service providers.
Every day was interesting and exciting, and I
would recommend this experience to anyone who
is passionate about issues of poverty and
||End of Year Giving
the Law Center as you make
decisions about your year-end charitable giving.
Your gifts help us work to end and prevent
homelessness for millions of Americans
And your gifts, when paired with the
approximately $2 million in pro bono support we
leveraged this year, will have triple the
NLCHP is a 501(c)(3) organization. Contact us at (202) 638-2535 or email us at