|From Maria's Desk
Time to redouble our efforts!
It's a bad time to be in Washington, D.C. -- and not just because the weather is awful. The current political "climate" is much worse.
But it's never a particularly good time for our advocacy, so I want to focus on what we can do now to advance our goal of ending and preventing homelessness.
First, we have laws already on the books -- and we need to use them. For example:
Resources on these topics -- and many more -- are available at the Law Center, and they can help you claim those rights for yourself or people you work with.
Next, we have our ability to continue advocating for what we really need, and to make that advocacy as united as we possibly can. We must advocate for new rights and funding, not just against cuts, and we can do this by making our voices heard, collectively. At the Law Center, we'll be working with our partner organizations and coalitions to keep our agenda moving forward -- even in these times.
And finally, we have tools that can help us redefine the terms of the debate. We have an entire body of law that recognizes the basic human right of everyone to an adequate standard of living-including adequate housing. Just a few short months ago our government agreed to this principle before the world community. Especially now, we need to hold it accountable.
We have powerful tools for change. Now is the time to use them.
|Please Join Us: 13th Annual McKinney-Vento Awards! |
The Law Center's 13th annual McKinney-Vento Awards will be held Sept. 21, at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, will deliver the keynote address at this event recognizing the leadership of the U.S. Human Rights Fund, Rep. Barney Frank, DLA Piper, and Rob Robinson in the battle to end homelessness. Each of these honorees has been a vital partner in the Law Center's advocacy efforts. The U.S. Human Rights Fund will receive the Stewart B. McKinney Award, Rep. Frank will receive the Bruce F. Vento Award, DLA Piper will receive the Pro Bono Counsel Award, and Robinson will receive the Personal Achievement Award.
The reception will begin at 6 p.m., with dinner to follow.
Sponsorship of this event helps support the national legal effort to prevent and end homelessness. Tickets are $225 per person, with a special non-profit rate of $50 per person. For sponsorship opportunities or to purchase tickets, please click here or contact Whitney Gent at email@example.com or (202) 638-2535 ext. 204.
To learn more about the event and honorees, click here.
Event Host Committee
Paul Carothers - Yum! Brands; John Courembis - Courembis Companies; Sheila Crowley - National Low Income Housing Coalition; Angie Garcia Lathrop - Bank of America; Moises Loza - Housing Assistance Council; Nancy Prager - Prager Law; Bruce Rosenblum - The Carlyle Group; Lola Ladeinde Temple - DLA Piper; Barry Zigas- Zigas & Associates
Major Sponsors to Date
Courembis Commercial Real Estate Services & Courembis Law PLLC; Roderick & Ann Marie DeArment; DLA Piper; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver, & Jacobson LLP; Hogan Lovells; Mark G. Anderson Consulting; Microsoft; National Association of Realtors; Private Equity Growth Capital Council; Bruce & Lori Laitman Rosenblum; Sidley Austin LLP; Jeff & Kendra Simes; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; Yum! Brands
|Debt-Limit Deal Means Current, Future Spending Cuts
On Aug. 2, President Barack Obama signed legislation that raised the debt limit through the 2012 election, cut $1.1 trillion in federal spending over 10 years for federal programs like affordable housing and community development for which Congress must provide money each year, and created a "supercommittee" to find a minimum of an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts. If the "supercommittee" is unable to produce a set of recommendations that are approved by Congress and signed by the president, "automatic" cuts of $1.2 trillion will be enacted in both domestic spending (including but not limited to defense) and Medicare payments to physicians.
The first round of cuts in the bipartisan agreement already poses a threat to local efforts to end homelessness, and additional cuts to programs impacting low-income people would only add to the harm. Over the next two years, spending cuts will kick in slowly, likely leading to modest but important reductions in HUD's budget -- and certainly not allowing new initiatives to be funded. In 2013 and beyond, more severe spending reductions would kick in, putting pressure on core HUD programs like Section 8, public housing, and homeless assistance.
The impact of the second round of cuts is not yet clear. If a set of recommendations is agreed to, it is likely to include Medicare and/or Medicaid cuts. While any cuts to these programs will impact low-income people to some degree, the degree of impact depends largely on where the cuts come from. For example, elimination or reduction of the Medicaid expansion approved in health-care reform would have a direct impact on the number of insured homeless persons, while cuts in payments to providers would have a more indirect impact by potentially reducing the number of doctors willing to serve Medicaid recipients. If no agreement is reached, additional across-the-board cuts that would further reduce the HUD budget are likely.
The Law Center and other national partners will be working to influence the "supercommittee," arguing that any additional cuts made by the committee must not impact services for the lowest income Americans. We will keep you apprised of this process.
|Law Center Testifies Before House on Title V
On July 27, Law Center Executive Director Maria Foscarinis testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Oversight and Reform in support of a program that grants homeless service providers the right to obtain surplus federal real property at no cost. The House is currently considering four legislative proposals that would overhaul the real property disposal process, including Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
Since Title V's creation in 1987, opponents have claimed the program prevents the government from profiting from the sale of surplus buildings and land. Despite legislative attacks, nearly 500 buildings and parcels of land have been conveyed to homeless service providers through the program, which now benefits more than 2 million homeless people every year through emergency shelter, transitional housing, education, job training, food access, and other services.
As the only homeless advocate on two panels of current and former government employees, Foscarinis emphasized that Title V is not to blame for the government's inability to sell surplus property. "Title V is not the cause of delays in the federal property disposal process," Foscarinis testified. "Indeed, the Title V process takes only a few months, and it should not be harmed or eliminated in the name of procedural reform."
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and other members of the committee stressed the importance of maintaining benefits for homeless service providers as part of the government's real property disposal process. Issa told the first panel, made up of three House members whose bills are being explored, "Hopefully each of you, as you're looking at your bills and bringing them before the committee, will recognize that it is unlikely that any bill will leave this committee if there is not an equivalent benefit to the homeless in each of your bills."
The Law Center submitted written testimony that outlines recommendations for streamlining the real property disposal process, and video of the hearing is available online (Foscarinis's testimony begins at 11:52). Government Executive covered the hearing, citing the Law Center's insistence on maintaining legal guarantees for homeless service providers.
If your organization has acquired surplus federal property or is interested in learning more about opportunities in your community, the Law Center wants to hear from you. Please contact Housing Attorney Geraldine Doetzer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 638-2535 ext. 207.
We also ask you to contact your members of Congress and urge them to preserve Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act so homeless services providers can continue to make valuable use of excess government property for critical homeless services.
|Overturning the Doctrine of Self-Help Evictions in Md.
On July 5, the Law Center filed an amicus brief with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals asking the court to overturn the common law doctrine of self-help evictions in Maryland.
The brief, submitted with the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, Civil Justice, Inc., and St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, makes three arguments for overturning the doctrine of self-eviction, which allows building owners to evict residents and change locks without judicial process or the presence of law enforcement officers.
First, the brief affirms that self-help eviction is incompatible with developments in international human rights law, which clearly forbids forced evictions without due process of law.
Second, the brief argues that the economic and foreclosure crises have exacerbated problems with self-help evictions, as more and more landlords and foreclosure purchasers are taking non-judicial shortcuts to oust residents while failing to inform them of their rights.
Last, the brief notes that while the doctrine may have had its place in 14th century England, where it began, in the subsequent centuries, conditions have changed. Maryland already prevents self-help eviction in the landlord-tenant context, and 23 states prevent it in all contexts. Self-help evictions are on the decline because they 1) increase the likelihood of public disturbances, 2) increase the likelihood of wrongful evictions, and 3) are unnecessary in light of current court processes.
The court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case in December.
|Orlando Stops Arrests for Feeding Homeless People |
After more than two dozen arrests, national publicity and a spate of cyberattacks, the mayor of Orlando announced that the City will allow Food Not Bombs to share food with homeless individuals in front of Orlando's City Hall.
In the May issue of In Just Times, we reported that the Eleventh Circuit had upheld an Orlando food sharing restriction that requires groups sharing food with 25 or more people in downtown public parks to get permits and limits groups' use of a park for food sharing to twice a year. Plaintiffs Orlando Food Not Bombs and First Vagabond Church, who share food with homeless people, unsuccessfully argued that the ordinance violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and to free exercise of religious beliefs. The Law Center supported the plaintiffs' challenge of the ordinance by filing an amicus brief in this case, with pro bono assistance from law firm Goodwin Procter.
In the wake of the Eleventh Circuit's decision, the City resumed enforcement of the ordinance and, in June and July, members of Food Not Bombs were arrested for sharing food in Orlando's Lake Eola Park. The arrests garnered attention from the national news media, as well as from a computer-hacking group, Anonymous, that responded to the arrests by disabling Orlando-related websites, including the mayor's re-election campaign website.
On August 3, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer invited Food Not Bombs to gather and share food in front of Orlando's City Hall instead of in Lake Eola Park. Food Not Bombs members have since been sharing food at this location, but do not consider it an adequate substitute because of the lack of running water and restrooms. In an August 6 response in the Orlando Sentinel, Food Not Bombs member Ben Markeson stated that the group moved the food sharing events under duress and that the City had been citing food sharing activists for trespass upon entering the park, rather than waiting to see if the group violated the ordinance's restriction on serving more than 25 people. Trespass carries criminal heavier penalties than does a violation of the ordinance.
Other municipalities in Florida similarly restrict food sharing. The Law Center will continue to oppose such restrictions that interfere with homeless individuals' human right to access food and advocate for constructive alternatives.
|Law Center Forms Education Consortium
As the new school year begins, the Law Center is excited to announce a new education initiative. In conjunction with the law firm of DLA Piper, the Law Center is launching a new program, tentatively titled Project LEARN (Lawyers Education Access Resource Network), that will provide rapid assistance to callers from all over the nation seeking help in addressing school actions that are in contravention of the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
Through the Law Center's new initiative, callers will be able to call the Law Center whenever a school attempts to interfere with the homeless children's access to education. Pro bono volunteers from DLA Piper will then respond to callers and provide them with short-term limited legal service. The assistance will range from providing basic information to intervening on behalf of the student(s) and to get the school to comply with the McKinney-Vento Act. Through this effort, the Law Center will be able to provide more families with fast assistance and develop a consortium of experts on homeless education matters.
|Associate Advisory Council Holds First Meeting
On July 27, the Law Center held the inaugural meeting of its Associate Advisory Council (AAC). The AAC, which is comprised of law firm associates dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness, will work to expand the Law Center's network of young pro bono attorneys and donors and will engage in organizing events and conducting outreach to bring attention to the Law Center's mission and events.
Members to Date: WilmerHale - Leila Abolfazli, Alston & Bird - Kelley Barnaby, Fried Frank - Kimberly Cain, Covington & Burling - Shimica Gaskins, Hunton & Williams - Tom Goodhue, Nixon Peabody - Tatiana Gutierrez, Goodwin Procter - Anaxet Jones, Simpson Thacher - Jonathan Lin, Mayer Brown - Ann Marie Phillips, DLA Piper - Lola Ladeinde Temple, Dechert - Sumeera Younis.
Nixon Peabody graciously hosted the inaugural meeting.
|Law Center Welcomes New Civil Rights Attorney
The Law Center is pleased to announce its new civil rights attorney, Heather Maria Johnson. Heather comes to the Law Center from Latham & Watkins, where she was an associate and served as pro bono counsel in one of the Law Center's litigation matters challenging ordinances that criminalize homelessness.
At the Law Center, Heather works with advocates to challenge city practices that criminalize homelessness. She serves as co-counsel in litigation, files amicus briefs, and serves as a resource for attorneys pursuing litigation. She also writes reports, articles, and other publications to provide legal guidance and information about the civil rights issues of homeless people.
In addition, Heather monitors civil rights issues throughout the country and provides technical assistance to advocates who are combating criminalization measures or working on voting issues. As part of the civil rights program's public education initiative, she provides trainings related to strategies for challenging the criminalization of homelessness and promoting the voting rights of homeless persons.
Heather received her B.A. from the University of Virginia and her J.D. from Duke University School of Law, where she was a member of the Duke Law Journal. She also holds a M.A. in cultural anthropology and clerked for the Hon. James P. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
Heather replaces Tulin Ozdeger, who left to spend more time with her young son.
|Board Profile: Roderick DeArment
Roderick DeArment is currently a co-chair of Covington & Burling's Government Affairs practice and has a broad-based practice handling legislative and regulatory matters for clients in areas including tax, employee benefits, health care, labor law, financial services, and international trade.
He has also held several high-ranking federal government positions. In 1989, he served as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor under President George H. W. Bush. From 1985-86, he served as chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole's office. From 1979 to 1984, Rod served in a several positions for the Senate Finance Committee, including chief counsel and staff director.
A former co-chair of the board of directors, Rod has partnered with the Law Center in advocating for homeless families and individuals since the organization's founding. The Law Center is extremely grateful for Rod's longtime dedication and expertise!