Right to Housing Forum2019-05-22T20:45:11+00:00

Annual Right to Housing Forum

Each year, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty hosts a National Forum on the Human Right to Housing. People who are currently or formerly homeless, attorneys, government officials, and advocates from across the country gather in Washington, D.C., to organize and strategize on ways we can work to end the criminalization of people experiencing homelessness.

Our National Forum provides a valuable opportunity for people and organizations that do diverse work in the housing and homelessness sector to work together to create innovative and effective ways to fight homelessness. This year’s Forum is generously hosted by Hogan Lovells LLP (555 13th St NW, Washington, DC 20004) and will be held June 5 and 6.


2019 Forum Agenda at a Glance

Wednesday, June 5th

8-9am Breakfast

9-9:30am Welcome and Setting the Stage

  • Maria Foscarinis, Founder and Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
  • T. Weymouth Clark, Pro Bono Partner Hogan Lovells LLP
  • Khadijah Williams, NLCHP Board Member

9:30-10am Opening Keynote

  • Amanda Andere, Chief Executive Officer of Funders Together to End Homelessness

10-11:15am Rotating Roundtables: HNH Successes and Challenges

At the HNH Rotating Roundtables, come and get a taste of a variety of different topics related to the successes and challenges faced by members of the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign.


  • Panhandling Campaign- Pierre Collins (Emerson National Hunger Fellow at NLCHP)
  • Privatization of Public Space- Nikita Price (Picture the Homeless), Paul Boden (WRAP)
  • Vigilantism- Megan Hustings and Annie Leomporra (NCH), Amirio Freeman (FRAC)
  • Corporate responsibility- Kelley Cutler and Armando Garcia (SF Coalition)
  • Family homelessness- Claas Ehlers (Family Promise)
  • Youth homelessness- Brandy Ryan and Marta Beresin (NLCHP)

11:15am-12:30pm Plenary- Martin: What Does it Mean and Where Do We Go Next with Litigation?

Martin v. Boise sets an important precedent that litigators can build on within the 8th Amendment context, including in moving us toward at least shelter, if not housing, remedies. Other legal theories can also help complement and enlarge the space opened up through the Martin decision. This panel will discuss what the decision means and does not mean, and how we can strategically maximize its impact in the courts.

  • Carol Sobel (Law Office of Carol Sobel), Christian Abasto (Disability Rights CA), David Peery (Camillus Health Concern), Eric Tars (NLCHP), Michael Bern (Latham & Watkins LLP), Wookie Kim (ACLU of Hawai’i)

12:30-1:30pm Lunch

1:30-2:45pm Plenary- Martin: Where Do We Go Next with Policy?

In addition to opening up new possibilities in the courts, the Martin decision provides new leverage for policy advocacy to stop the criminalization of homelessness, prevent homelessness through renters’ rights, and create more affordable, accessible housing in our communities. This panel will discuss how we can ensure communities see Martin not as a limitation on what they can do, but as an opportunity to implement better policies and best practices to end homelessness, rather than criminalize its symptoms.

  • John Pollock (National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel), Pete White (Los Angeles Community Action Network), Sara Rankin (Seattle University School of Law Homeless Rights Advocacy Project), Terese Howard, (Denver Homeless Out Loud), Tristia Bauman (NLCHP)

2:55pm-4:35pm Beyond Martin: Breakout Sessions

This breakout will provide an opportunity to discuss how lawyers and organizers can work together to strategically develop 8th Amendment cases that will help expand the protections for people living on the streets, and push us toward our goals of both “Housing” and “Not Handcuffs.” We will also discuss what can be done when sweeps or other harmful practices are threatened, but litigation is not a strong option.

  • Discussion leaders: Carol Sobel (Law Office of Carol Sobel), Kirsten Anderson (Southern Legal Counsel), Paul Boden (WRAP), Pete White (LACAN), Tristia Bauman (NLCHP)

This breakout will welcome new and current participants in the #IAskForHelpBecause Campaign against panhandling ordinances to discuss strategy to maximize the impact of the campaign through coordinated legal and organizing strategies, and move as many cities as possible away from criminalization of panhandling, and toward more constructive alternatives.

  • Discussion leaders: Eric Tars (NLCHP), Pierre Collins (Emerson National Hunger Fellow at NLCHP)

This breakout will provide advocates with a space to discuss how we can most effectively work together across communities to carry the momentum from Martin into every town and city. What support do directly impacted individuals and grassroots organizations need from the national level to help them lead work in their cities? What models can be shared that push beyond simply not criminalizing and toward permanent housing solutions? What joint actions can we organize to help us build in our own communities and beyond?

  • Discussion leaders: Annie Leomporra (National Coalition for the Homeless), Kelly Miller (NLCHP), Megan Hustings (National Coalition for the Homeless), Rachel Lee (NLCHP)

Homelessness disparately affects communities of color, as does criminalization more broadly. This workshop will help participants develop active strategies to center racial inequality in their work for Housing Not Handcuffs, and build bridges to others working on racial equity issues.

  • Discussion leaders: Amanda Andere (Funders Together to End Homelessness), Marc Dones (National Innovation Service), Lovie Arthur (Community Solutions)

4:40-5:30pm Reconvene and Debrief

5:30-6:45pm Reception

  • Stand Up Set by Shahera Hyatt (Executive Director of California Homeless Youth Project)

Thursday, June 6th

8-9am Breakfast and Networking

9-9:20am Reorientation to Today’s Tasks

9:30-11:30am Beyond Martin: Breakout Sessions II

This breakout will provide the opportunity for deeper discussion of non-8th Amendment litigation angles after Martin, including regional jurisdictional conversations where appropriate, again examining reaching goals of both “Housing” and “Not Handcuffs.”

  • Discussion leaders: Kirsten Anderson (SLC), Tristia Bauman (NLCHP)

This breakout will help advocates discuss strategies for post-Martin policy, including state- and local-level homeless bills of rights and other guidance or policies on addressing unsheltered homelessness. Participants will also discuss the challenges posed by the privatization of public spaces, and how advocates can respond.

  • Discussion leaders: Eric Tars (NLCHP), Kelley Cutler (San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness), Nikita Price (PTH), Paul Boden (WRAP), Sara Rankin (Seattle University School of Law Homeless Rights Advocacy Project)

While Martin lays down an important legal principle, broader change will not come until we change the narrative around homelessness from one of individual to systemic causes, requiring systemic housing and service responses, rather than individual criminal justice ones. This breakout will provide a space for developing both new affirmative narratives as well as consider how to effectively respond to the backlash seen in the wake of Martin and other efforts to repeal criminalization ordinances.

  • Discussion leaders: Armando Garcia (San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness), Cassidy Waskowicz (NLCHP), Don Sawyer (a Bigger Vision Films)

Because law enforcement is a large part of the current approach to homelessness in our communities, advocates need to be thinking strategically about what constructive role law enforcement can play in reversing this approach, without alienating this important potential partner constituency. This workshop will allow law enforcement and non-law enforcement participants to discuss how they can better work together to get their communities to provide Housing, Not Handcuffs to people living on the streets.

  • Discussion leaders: Dan McDonald (Homeless Liaison Officer, Tampa Police Department), Detective Debbie Ramsey (Ret.) (Baltimore Police Department), Judge Cylenthia LaToye Miller (36th District, Michigan), Nicola Smith-Kea (Arnold Ventures)

11:30-12:30pm Report back, Closing Debrief, and Next Steps

Past Forums

2018 National Forum on the Human Right to Housing

For our 2018 National Forum, more than 150 advocates and leaders, from over 100 organizations and 30 states gathered in Washington, D.C.

2018 Keynote speaker Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Adequate Housing.

2017 National Forum on the Human Right to Housing

2017 keynote speaker Peter Edelman, Director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality with NLCHP Board Member Julie Jordan (left) and NLCHP Executive Director and Founder Maria Foscarinis (right).

Plenary discussion on the effects of the 2016 election on the federal environment and how this affects work related to homelessness and poverty. Speakers included: Sarah Mickelson, Don Saunders, and Chiraag Bains.

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