Meet Our Team

A dedicated team of legal experts determined to end homelessness in America.

Melissa Anoh
Melissa AnohProgram and Networks Vista

Melissa serves as the Program and Networks Vista and will head the National Forum on the Human Right to Housing. Her goal is to increase the number of communities using the right to housing solutions to end and prevent homelessness, promote understanding among audiences of the harm of policies that criminalize homelessness, and uphold the educational rights of children currently experiencing homelessness.

“Working directly with women experiencing homelessness is where I grew a passion for advocating for those who are often forgotten. This is where I realized there is no face to homelessness, and it can happen to anyone. Every human deserves the right to housing.”

In 2018, Melissa received her master’s in social work with a concentration in social change. Prior to the Law Center, she was working at a women’s shelter in Montgomery County, assisting them in obtaining better housing. Melissa is originally from Maryland but claims Rwanda and Ivory Coast as her home.

Rajan BalHousing Not Handcuffs Campaign Manager

Rajan Bal returns to the Law Center via a partner fellowship with Georgetown University Law Center. Rajan joins the Law Center’s law and policy team as the primary point person for the Law Center’s national Housing not Handcuffs Campaign, which seeks to combat homelessness through housing-based solutions.

Rajan graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in May 2019. During law school, Rajan advocated for underprivileged youth in the DC delinquency system as a student attorney for the Georgetown University Juvenile Justice Clinic. Rajan otherwise focused on various aspects of criminal law and hopes to use his legal training to promote the public interest.

Rajan is originally from Silver Spring, Maryland. Rajan graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with degrees in psychology and criminal justice.

Karianna Barr
Karianna BarrDirector of Development and Communications

Karianna Barr serves as the Director of Development and Communications at the Law Center, supporting the team in work to ensure everyone in the United States has access to safe and secure housing. She is honored to work with the Law Center’s incredible staff and board to elevate our goal as a priority in every community across the country.

“The narrative that people experience homelessness, poverty, or any other crisis because of their own choices is toxic and false and must be shifted. Systems have been intentionally created to force cycles upon many in the United States, and we must use every tool in our arsenal to combat those systems, especially the law.”

Prior to joining the Law Center, Karianna had the privilege of fighting unjust systems by working with national wealth-building organization Prosperity Now, public boarding school system The SEED Foundation, and integrated service provider Inspiration Corporation, and she has over a decade of experience in hospitality. In addition, she supports fundraising efforts through volunteer work as a development Captain at the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, a special events lead at the Smithsonian National Zoo, and a Walk Committee member for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – National Capital Chapter.

Tristia Bauman
Tristia BaumanSenior Attorney

Tristia Bauman combines litigation, legal education, and legislative advocacy strategies to prevent and end homelessness. Her work focuses on combating the criminalization of homelessness and advocating for laws that protect the civil and human rights of homeless people. Tristia also conducts legal trainings around the country, writes reports and other publications related to housing, and serves as a legal resource for homeless advocates.

“As the daughter of a disabled father and an immigrant mother, I grew up poor and I know well the barriers to success imposed by poverty. I became a public interest attorney to break down those barriers and to provide every person – people just like me – with the chance to thrive.”

Tristia began her law career at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. as a housing attorney working with low-income tenants in federally subsidized housing. She later served for several years as an Assistant Public Defender in Miami-Dade County.

Tristia hails from Auckland, New Zealand but was raised in Washington State where she attended the University of Washington as an undergraduate and law student. She received her B.A. in Anthropology in 2000 and her J.D. in 2006.

Whittni Holland
Whittni HollandDevelopment Associate

Whittni Holland serves as the Development Associate at the Law Center, where she works to support the Development and Communications team through fundraising and administrative efforts. Recognizing the importance of advocacy in the fight toward social justice for vulnerable and marginalized populations, Whittni is excited and honored to work with the Law Center as they continue to be a champion of transforming the lives of those experiencing homelessness and poverty.

“I firmly believe that what we do for the most vulnerable reflects our values. I value social justice and basic human rights, especially the right to affordable, safe, and adequate housing for all.”

Whittni is a native of Southern Maryland. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Elon University and a Master of Social Work degree concentrated in Community, Administration, and Policy Practice from Howard University. She is also a Licensed Social Worker in the state of Maryland.

Carlton Martin
Carlton MartinPro Bono Manager

Carlton Martin serves as the Law Center’s Pro Bono Manager, responsible for handling relationships with the Law Center’s major law firm partners that annually provide over $5 million in pro bono services.

“Knowing the rights of unhoused individuals and working within my power to protect those rights are important to me. I understand that our lives are fragile. Most of us are one termination, one medical bill, or one stroke of a pen away from homelessness; therefore, we should all have empathy for those experiencing homelessness and do what is within our power to advocate for real solutions to end it.”

Carlton came to the Law Center from the Indiana Supreme Court, where he served as a Staff Attorney for access to justice issues. Moreover, Carlton previously served as a Deputy Public Defender for the State of Indiana, and as the Project GRACE Staff Attorney for the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, where he was dedicated to resolving civil legal issues of re-entrants and homeless veterans. Additionally, he was recognized as one of Indiana’s top 15 Up-and-Coming Legal Leaders in the Law in 2019. Carlton received his B.A. in Sociology and African and African American Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington and earned his J.D. from Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 2012.

Sarah Riley
Sarah RileyDevelopment and Communications Vista

Sarah Riley serves as the Development and Communications Vista, focusing on expanding the Law Center’s network and improving the reach and capacity of the organization. She recently graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in Public Policy. She specifically enjoyed mentoring incarcerated youth while in school which sparked her passion for working in the non-profit world. Having focused on issues of hunger and homelessness in the past, Sarah joins the Law Center with experience in the field and hopeful optimism that progress is possible.

“I’ve seen how the cycle of poverty affects the lives of so many people, specifically harming people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. I believe that what you look like, where you’re from, and who you love should never affect your ability to succeed, and it is my goal to ensure that everyone has an equitable and just quality of life. No one deserves to experience homelessness, and we are all responsible for making sure that our society lifts up its most vulnerable members, rather than relegating them to the shadows.”

Sarah is originally from Alexandria, Virginia, where she grew up understanding the power of laws and policies. She hopes to attend law school in the coming years and is eager to pursue a career in public interest.

Brandy Ryan
Brandy RyanStaff Attorney

Brandy Ryan is the Law Center’s newest Staff Attorney. She has previously worked with the Law Center as an intern and post-grad fellow, working on housing policy in the Violence Against Women Act and several research projects and toolkits benefitting homeless youth. Brandy will continue in policy work and will join the Law Center’s litigation team.

Brandy graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in December 2018. Her work during law school focused on veterans and the specific legal challenges facing them even decades after their service, and her studies focused on civil rights and constitutional law. Brandy is originally from Louisiana, will never miss an opportunity to get Cajun food, and hopes to get a dog as soon as possible.

Deborah Shepard
Deborah ShepardOperations Manager

As the Operations Manager for the National Homelessness Law Center, Deborah brings extensive experience in administration, operations, finance, project management, contracts, and facility management. A graduate of Clark University in Worcester, MA, the majority of Deborah’s career was focused on corporate and government information technology services. In 2007 she decided to pursue a second career in the non-profit field where she could contribute to social justice focused missions. Before joining the Law Center, Deborah was the Chief Operating Officer at Columbia Road Health Services, a community medical clinic providing care to the underserved of D.C. She was Director of Operations at Lutheran Volunteer Corps, an organization that matched volunteers to social justice non-profits across the country for a year of service. And recently, Deborah was Director of Operations at Luther Place Memorial Church, whose history of service and advocacy to the community and to homeless women, in particular, is extensive.

“As a fifth grader, I watched a classmate and her family picking through trash in front of the building where I lived in Harlem. While poverty, scarcity and a lack of decent housing lived out all around me, there is nothing so dreadful as watching someone you sat next to in class on Friday, picking through trash on Saturday. Maybe we don’t always see it, but innocence and dignity are big casualties of poverty. When you factor in the experience of homelessness, with its attending isolation, it’s even harder. My experience of watching this classmate taught me that you must see and bear witness to other people’s struggles, and you must do all that you can to help.”

Deborah has been volunteering most of her life, since community service in the seventh grade. Deborah specifically volunteers for organizations whose services help communities and people to thrive. She is a longtime member and volunteer of Church of the Epiphany’s Street Church community. The Street Church community is a direct outreach ministry to those experiencing homelessness and poverty. Deborah is thankful for the opportunity to use her experience and skills to further the mission of the Law Center.

Eric Tars
Eric TarsLegal Director

Eric Tars serves as the National Homelessness Law Center’s legal director, leading its human rights, civil rights, and children’s rights programs and managing its cutting edge litigation, strategic policy advocacy, and outreach and training initiatives at the international, national, and local levels. Eric helped spearhead the launch of the Law Center’s national Housing Not Handcuffs campaign, has served as counsel of record in multiple precedent-setting cases, including Martin v. Boise in the 9th Circuit, and is frequently quoted in national and local media, including NPR, AP, New York Times, Washington Post, and VICE News.

“My father grew up homeless, as a refugee following WWII. I believe every person deserves to be treated with the same dignity and respect for basic human rights as I would have wanted to see him and his family receive.”

Before coming to the Law Center, Eric was a Fellow with Global Rights’ U.S. Racial Discrimination Program and consulted with Columbia University Law School’s Human Rights Institute and the US Human Rights Network, where he currently serves as the vice-chair of the Network’s Board.

Eric received his J.D. magna cum laude as a Global Law Scholar at the Georgetown University Law Center. He received his B.A. magna cum laude in political science from Haverford College and studied international human rights in Vienna at the Institute for European Studies and at the University of Vienna.

Eric also teaches human rights advocacy as an adjunct professor at Drexel University Kline School of Law.

Nitan Shanas
Nitan ShanasPolicy Intern

Nitan Shanas serves as a Policy Intern at the Law Center, where he works to support the Law and Policy team through critical research and advocacy. He is deeply passionate about helping people experiencing homelessness; having worked at two homeless shelters in Camden, NJ since his freshman year of college and having led several awareness campaigns on the issue. He is thrilled to be working with and learning from an amazing staff while contributing to the critical goals of the Law Center.

“In a world where racial inequities and economic disparities exist, I feel that it is so important to use my voice and privilege to help undo these wrongs.”

Nitan is currently studying Economics, Urban Studies and Psychology at Rutgers University – Camden. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration with the eventual goal of joining the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C

Steve Kennedy
Steve KennedyLegal Intern

Steve Kennedy is a Legal Intern at the Law Center, advancing Law and Policy team initiatives extending the human right to housing at the state level. Steve brings significant state-level legislative and policy experience to the role, having served as the president of the UConn Law chapter of the People’s Parity Project, which advances the rights of workers and historically marginalized communities through legislative and policy advocacy, and as the Connecticut team leader for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which has passed significant state-level legislation supporting disabled, POC, and LGBTQIA veterans.

Steve is currently a second-year evening student at the University of Connecticut School of Law while working full-time as a legal aid Community Justice Fellow and litigation law clerk. He also holds a Master of Science degree in biophysical chemistry from New York University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts- Boston.

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