| From Maria's Desk |
This past year the Law Center won important victories in our struggle to end and prevent homelessness - and to protect the human rights and dignity of homeless people. The year also saw increasing need and deepening suffering. Looking ahead, we have much more to do. As we end the year, I want to share with you - our supporters & friends - some of the highlights:
- After years of advocacy and coalition building, we won a strong, comprehensive federal plan to end and prevent homelessness.
- We saw progress in our work to protect tenants caught in the foreclosure crisis, with our vigorous advocacy to implement the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, a legislative victory we won last year.
- We moved closer to implementing a previous victory protecting the housing rights of domestic violence survivors, with new federal guidance tracking our own recommendations.
- We continued to have success in our longstanding work to convert vacant federal properties into housing and service sites for homeless people, with work on new properties underway in Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
- We stood up for the basic dignity and rights of homeless and poor people by challenging city efforts to criminally punish people for living in public - even though they have no place else to go. We won victories in communities across the country--from Seattle to Salt Lake City to Dallas.
- We won victories for homeless children denied access to school, helping individual kids and their parents find a measure of stability and hope, while also changing policies and systems that deny them the right to an education.
- As vigorous participants in the process, we helped make housing the number one issue brought before the U.S. government as part of the U.N.'s first comprehensive review of our compliance with human rights obligations.
All of our friends and supporters are crucial to this work. As the year comes to a close, please support our work in whatever way you can. Know that your support does make a difference.
To read a more full accounting of this year's victories in homeless advocacy, click here.
|This Holiday Season, Give the Gift of Home |
you can help.
Right now, as you read this, a family is losing their home.
They may be victims of the recession, or they may even have paid their rent on time. But this winter, they will take refuge in homeless shelters, huddle under bridges, or cram into a friend's house, sleeping on a couch or the floor. This year, they won't speculate about holiday gifts; they'll worry about feeding their children. You can help change that.
Almost daily, the front page of the newspaper contains a story about housing. The foreclosure crisis is still not over, and we are now finding that banks have been kicking families out of their homes without even reviewing their cases. Homelessness is increasing dramatically, but
Please donate now to support the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Together we can end homelessness.
|USICH Summit Encourages Constructive Alternatives |On December 1, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Department of Justice's Access to Justice Initiative hosted a summit on constructive alternatives to criminalization. The summit featured models in policing, court systems, systems of care, and volunteerism. Attendees included city officials, providers, advocates, and law enforcement officials from across the country, as well as representatives from various federal agencies, including the Departments of Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs. The goal of the summit was to encourage cities attending to pursue approaches to homelessness that do not involve penalizing homeless individuals for performing life-sustaining activities in public. The HEARTH Act of 2009 identified the counterproductive nature of criminalization measures and required the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness to "develop constructive alternatives to criminalizing homelessness and laws and policies that prohibit sleeping, feeding, sitting, resting or lying in public spaces when there are suitable alternatives, result in the destruction of a homeless person's property without due process, or are selectively enforced against homeless persons."
The Law Center was instrumental in securing this provision in the HEARTH Act and has been working with the Interagency Council on Homelessness to support its implementation.
"It is encouraging to see federal entities weighing in on this topic and providing leadership in promoting constructive alternatives to criminalization," said Tulin Ozdeger, the Law Center's civil rights director. "We hope this summit will be the first step of many the Council will take in discouraging cities from criminalizing homelessness."
|Senate Hearing on Women's Rights Treaty
On November 18, the Senate conducted its first hearing since 2002 on the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Rights Treaty." As a member of the CEDAW Taskforce, the Law Center submitted testimony in support of ratification, emphasizing the treaty's potential to ensure housing stability and economic security for women in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to highlighting the role of the treaty in curbing housing discrimination against vulnerable women, the Law Center hailed its capacity to provide equal access to education and employment.
The CEDAW agreement was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly and entered into force in 1981. Almost all countries have ratified the treaty, with the United States, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Nauru, Palau and Tonga currently in the small minority of non-signatories. While the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has twice voted in favor of ratification, the treaty has yet to be introduced to the full Senate for a vote. The Law Center joins the CEDAW Taskforce in promoting this measure as the continuation of a proud bipartisan tradition of advancing and protecting human rights.
|Tomorrow: Webinar on Food Sharing Prohibitions |
Tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. EDT, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless will host a webinar to discuss topics explored in their July report, A Place at the Table: Prohibitions on Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness. The report focuses on cities that have created ordinances, policies, and tactics to limit groups from sharing food with homeless people, and highlights alternatives to those restrictions.
Webinar presenters will include:
- Tulin Ozdeger, Civil Rights Program Director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
- Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing at the National Coalition for the Homeless
- Sarah Owens, Chief Executive Officer of Community Cooperative Ministries, Inc.
- Ellen Vollinger, Food Stamp/Legal Director at the Food Resource Action Center
The goal of the webinar is to provide local advocates with practical tips, advice, and support to work collaboratively with their city governments to address food sharing concerns.
The webinar will be held Thursday, December 16, 2010 from 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EDT. To register, click here.
|FAFSA Disadvantages Homeless Youth |
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to funding for higher education for youth across the United States each year. However, its definition of "youth" can place unaccompanied homeless youth at a significant disadvantage, keeping them from obtaining the financial aid for which they are legally eligible.
On November 15, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Education on the 2011-2012 FAFSA, urging it to consider the needs of unaccompanied homeless youth in the application process. It called for two major changes to FAFSA: 1) a change to the arbitrary definition of "youth" currently being used on the application to include youth under the age of 24, and 2) the addition of a question intended to identify unverified homeless youth.
Read the Law Center's full comments here.
|First Annual Foreclosure Conference |
Last month, housing attorney Geraldine Doetzer traveled to Boston to attend the first annual "Community Responses to the Foreclosure Crisis" conference. Over the course of two days, she met with advocates from around the country whose organizations are dedicated to fighting foreclosure in order to keep owners and tenants in their homes, and shared the Law Center's work on the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act.
The conference was hosted by Harvard Law School and the non-profit City Life/Vida Urbana. A Boston institution for close to 40 years, City Life has focused its recent efforts on anti-foreclosure community organizing. They presented their "sword and shield" method of opposing foreclosures: first, the group wields its "sword" of education, organization, and public demonstrations at auctions and evictions. Then they team with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and others to develop a legal "shield" to halt or delay evictions and foreclosures. Other speakers included the Harvard Law students behind "Project No One Leaves," a canvassing campaign staffed entirely by volunteers who pore over public foreclosure notices each week and then take to the streets of Boston on Saturday mornings to knock on the doors of owners and tenants who are at risk of losing their homes. The Project has been featured in the national media, and is spawning similar groups at schools around the country.
A unifying theme of the conference, both among presenters and attendees, was that individuals and communities can stand up to the powerful banking industry and successfully fight to stay in their homes. The accomplishments of grassroots groups around the country will continue to inform the Law Center's anti-foreclosure work here in Washington.
|Pro Bono Corner: Nixon Peabody LLP |
In 2009, Crossroads Rhode Island, the largest homeless service organization in Rhode Island, reached out to the Law Center after encountering numerous roadblocks while applying for federal surplus property through Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Title V provides surplus federal properties to homeless service providers for free.
Through the Law Center's pro bono program, Linn Freedman, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, adeptly assisted Crossroads in obtaining the property from the Air Force. According to Crossroads Chief Operating Officer Michele Wilcox, Ms. Freedman was vital to the development of a plan for Crossroads's attainment of the property and was essential to the negotiations that led to its successful acquisition. Ms. Wilcox states that "[Ms. Freedman] never wavered in her determination that we were on the side of right, and she was determined not to let us lose. I am so grateful for that! . . . None of this would have been possible were it not for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and your pro bono assistance program. We are most grateful for your support."
Crossroads presently is completing phase one of the construction of Kingstown Crossings, which will provide permanent, affordable housing for formerly homeless families. Ms. Wilcox reports that "it won't be too long into 2011 before 58 formerly homeless families are living in beautiful, safe, decent, respectful and LEED certified new homes." Following phase one, Crossroads will build an additional 42 apartments for formerly homeless families as well as a childcare center on the property.
Congratulations to Crossroads, and thank you to Ms. Freedman and Nixon Peabody for your commitment to helping provide homes for formerly homeless families!
|Board of Directors Profile: Kirsten Johnson-Obey |
Kirsten T. Johnson-Obey is currently the Executive Vice President of Porterfield & Lowenthal, LLC. Prior to joining the firm, Kirsten served as Senior Director of Congressional Relations for Freddie Mac.
Kirsten is a long time homeless advocate. In fact, she was a staffer for Bruce F. Vento, after whom the McKinney-Vento Act is named. From 1995 to 2000, Kirsten was professional staff at the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit. Working for the ranking member, Representative Vento (MN-04) and the other members of the subcommittee, Kirsten played an extensive role in its policy and legislative matters. Prior to work on the subcommittee, Kirsten worked as legislative director and in other legislative positions for Congressman Vento from 1987 to 1994. In this capacity, she managed his housing issues, including the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act reauthorization (now the McKinney-Vento Act).
Kirsten is a Minnesota native, and graduated with B.A. degrees in International Relations and Political Science from Hamline University in St. Paul. Her extensive legal and political experience on housing and homelessness issues is a valuable asset to the Law Center's Board of Directors. We are proud to have her on our team!
|New Facebook Page |
There are many ways to stay involved in our ongoing work to end homelessness in the United States. To get more frequent updates about our work to end homelessness in America, "like" our new Facebook fan page.