Happy 2020! Here’s to a great new year for all of us, and for our work to end the injustice of homelessness. I want to share highlights of our plans for the new year:
We will work to implement our landmark victory in Martin v. Boise. We had an exciting end to 2019 when the Supreme Court decided not to hear Boise v. Martin, letting stand the Ninth Circuit ruling, which ensures that no one experiencing homelessness can be criminally punished for sleeping outside when no indoor alternatives are available. The decision binds the nine states covered by the Ninth Circuit, but the impact extends nationally, as other courts look to the ruling as precedent—as a Colorado court just did.
To capitalize on this success, we are turning our attention to constructive alternatives. Our goal is to push cities to implement real, housing-based solutions to homelessness, in the Ninth Circuit and beyond, and we will be highlighting models of constructive responses. We’ll be working with and continuing to grow the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign, supporting and adding partners. At the same time, we remain vigilant and, working with our new HNH Justice Network, we stand ready to challenge unconstitutional laws and policies.
We also plan expanded work to ensure homeless children and youth have access to education and other critical rights and resources, including our know-your-rights toolkit We are piloting an exciting new project in our home city of Washington D.C. to reach and empower homeless youth, including a cutting-edge online manual. Nationally, we will advocate for reform of state laws to better support unaccompanied homeless youth and to end youth homelessness, including an updated 50-State Index on Youth Homelessness.
We will continue to fight harmful new initiatives from the Trump Administration. Already, our victory in the Supreme Court, coupled with advocacy in Congress by the Law Center and our allies, have put the brakes on disastrous new policy proposals. But the newly appointed head of the USICH has been a proponent of punitive policies, and while he recently assured us at a meeting in our offices that he now opposes criminalizing homelessness, we will be watching closely.
At the same time, we will work with allies in Congress and at the state and local level to promote constructive new policies the right to housing, including strengthening an existing provision of the McKinney-Vento Act that makes vacant federal property available for free to nonprofits to use for housing, shelter and services for homeless people, and new policies to recognize and implement the human right to housing..
And in this election year, we will elevate our call for the human right to housing with our election guide; the human right to housing has been a topic through much of the presidential campaign, and several members of Congress have now introduced legislation.
These are big and critically important goals. To succeed, we need your support, and I hope you will join us in whatever way you can.
Thank you, and all the best for you and yours in the New Year.
Founder & Executive Director
NLCHP Helps Avert Executive Order Threat, But Caution Still Warranted
On Tuesday, January 14, the Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration is no longer intending to release a rumored executive order on homelessness—one that could have resulted in razed encampments and forced people into mass-tent facilities.
The Post credited the Law Center’s victory at the Supreme Court in Martin v. Boise—protecting people experiencing homelessness from prosecution for life sustaining activities in the absence of adequate alternatives—as a reason for the changed strategy. Restrictions imposed by Congress on the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s (HUD) Notice of Funding Application, requiring it to retain the priorities of the 2019 application, were also important. These restrictions, which include a priority on fighting criminalization of homelessness, added thanks to Law Center advocacy in 2015, and were a result of advocacy by the Law Center and partners in its Homeless Advocates Group.
While the executive order may no longer be forthcoming, the threat has not yet passed. The Administration issued a white paper in September laying out its priorities—including increasing law enforcement—under the misguided belief that the streets are “too comfortable” for people experiencing homelessness. Robert Marbut, who has called for communities to increase criminal enforcement to drive people into jail-like shelters, was also appointed as the new Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Additionally, HUD Secretary Ben Carson wrote a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, stating that federal funds to address homelessness would only be made available if policy changes—including “empowering and utilizing local law enforcement”—are made. Carson stated in a recent Fox News interview, that officials needed to “uncuff law enforcement so that people can be removed now and placed in transitional places.”
As the Administration shifts from a national to a city-by-city strategy, it will be important for partners to use the resources on the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign website to combat myths around homelessness and resist attempts to induce more criminalization of homelessness, and instead focus on housing-based solutions. The Law Center will remain vigilant to ensure the rights of people experiencing homelessness are protected, and that, ultimately, we move toward a human right to housing so that no one need experience homelessness in the first place.
Updates to the State Index on Youth Homelessness
Each year, True Colors United and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty collaborate to research, analyze, and publish an annual State Index on Youth Homelessness. This Index measures, scores, and reports on the systems, environment, and laws of all 50 states and Washington, DC, as they relate to preventing and ending youth homelessness. The Index paints a broad picture of where states currently stand—and how they can collectively and individually improve their laws, policies, systems, and environments to end and prevent youth homelessness and to improve the lives of unaccompanied youths experiencing homelessness. The Index provides an assessment of all states’ current capacity to successfully prevent and end youth homelessness based on certain benchmarks and criteria. It also serves as a guide for policymakers and advocates on how to make changes to existing policies, systems, and services towards ending and preventing youth homelessness at the state level. The 2019 iteration of the Index—the first update after the inaugural Index in 2018—will be released this month. Be on the lookout for updates from the Law Center and a webinar to come!
NEWS from the LAW CENTER
New Advisory Board!
We are proud to announce our new Advisory Board! An initiative of the Board of Directors, the Advisory Board will advance the Law Center’s mission and goals through strategic advice, connections, and support. Welcome!
Peter Edelman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy; Faculty Director, Center on Poverty and Inequality; Georgetown University Law Center; author, including Not a Crime to be Poor
Barbara Ehrenreich, Author (including Nickel and Dimed), activist and founder of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project
Steve Judge, Private Equity Growth Capital Council (retired); former legislative director for Congressman Bruce F. Vento
Rev. Father Alexander Karloutsos, Vicar General and Director, Public Affairs, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Angie Garcia Lathrop; Community Affairs Executive, Bank of America
Honorable Cylenthia LaToye Miller, Third Judicial Circuit Court, Wayne County, MI
Margaret Pfeiffer, Sullivan & Cromwell (retired partner)
Bruce Rosenblum; Managing Director; The Carlyle Group
New Law Center Arrival
Along with the new year, the Law Center is pleased to welcome a new intern, Jordan Hughes.
Jordan is excited and grateful to serve as the Law Center’s intern for the next semester. Graduating last May from Georgetown University with a Bachelor’s in Justice and Peace Studies, Jordan seeks a career trajectory in public policy and advocacy. In college she concentrated her studies on urban justice issues such as housing and homelessness, especially invigorated with classes on public housing and neighborhood equity.
Interestingly, it is her job at a local coffee shop that has directly interfaced her with people experiencing homelessness. Near daily, people seek shelter within the cafe, whether to use a restroom, rest their feet, or simply dwell in a temperature-controlled environment. Jordan strives to provide a welcoming space for these folks, as many of the businesses and housing options cater to high-income professionals.
She maintains a fiery passion for equity, respect and a right to housing for those with whom she works and seeks further opportunity in the law and policy field.
Originally hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, Jordan enjoys the outdoors, local artwork, and a good cup of coffee.
A Law Center Farewell
I’m going to depart for a moment from the normal In Just Times article format for this, as this particular piece is personal to me. My name is Jordan Goldfarb, and I’ve been serving as the Development & Communications VISTA for the past year. I’ve been putting together this newsletter for the Law Center for most of that time, and I wanted to put a goodbye to everyone into my last newsletter for the Law Center. Up until now, the newsletter has been a familiar routine for me, and working on my last issue is bittersweet as it means I will soon bid goodbye to my work alongside some of the finest people I’ve had the privilege to be able to work beside.
This past year has been full of interesting times and important news—much of it good, some of it not. I know I’ll be continuing to follow the Law Center’s impact, as this place has really made an impression on me. I hope the Law Center’s work has made an impression on all of you as well, and I hope my work supporting their efforts has helped to share the passion I can feel throughout the office here. I’ll certainly miss it, but fortunately, the organization (and the newsletter!) are in good hands as it moves forward towards the future.
Let’s all keep on fighting the good fight to end and prevent homelessness and poverty, wherever our lives take us.
Changing Laws. Changing Lives.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to end and prevent homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and long-term needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.