In the mid-1980s, Maria Foscarinis was a litigator at Sullivan & Cromwell, a large corporate law firm, where she volunteered to represent homeless families on a pro bono basis. After seeing the impact of first-rate legal advocacy on the lives of homeless people, she left the firm to dedicate herself to that work full-time. In 1989, she established the Law Center with one goal in mind: ending homelessness in America.
“My family suffered terribly during the German occupation of Greece in World War II, and as a child I heard my parents’ stories of starvation, deprivation and loss—as well as courageous resistance—on an almost nightly basis. I wanted to use the relative privilege of my life to fight for a world where no one has to suffer the injustice of dire poverty.”
Maria is a primary architect of the landmark Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, the first major federal legislation addressing homelessness, and she has litigated precedent-setting cases to secure the legal rights of homeless persons. She has developed major advocacy initiatives including, most recently, the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign; testified repeatedly before Congress; published dozens of articles, book chapters and opinion pieces; speaks regularly about legal and policy issues affecting homeless and poor persons; and is frequently quoted in the media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, NPR, Bloomberg, and the BBC. Among her most recent publications is Strategies to Address Homelessness in the Trump Era: Lessons from the Reagan Years.
Maria is a 1977 graduate of Barnard College and a 1981 graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was an editor of the Law Review. She also holds a M.A. in philosophy. After graduating from law school, she clerked for the Honorable Amalya L. Kearse on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Among other honors, Maria is the recipient of the 2016 Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize from Santa Clara University’s School of Law. She serves on the advisory board of the Columbia Law School Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program, and holds an adjunct appointment at Columbia Law School.
Maria has been profiled in publications including the New York Times Sunday Magazine, L.A. Times, Washingtonian and, most recently, in the English-language edition of Kathimerini, a major Greek daily.