I’m writing at a time of crisis for all of us—and especially for our unhoused neighbors and friends.
People experiencing homelessness are exceptionally vulnerable
to communicable diseases—including the coronavirus, COVID-19, which is sweeping the country and the world.
Now, especially with President Trump
’s false and harmful statements about people experiencing homelessness—including claiming without evidence that police officers are getting sick from their interactions and his Administration’s consideration of policies that would raze encampments and force people into mega-tent shelters—I worry that the coronavirus crisis will not only harm the health of people experiencing homelessness, but that it will also lead to even more stigma and criminalization.
While often couched as promoting public health and safety, criminalizing homelessness and sweeping encampments disrupts
homeless people’s access to social and health services, leading to worsened health and increased vulnerability. And forcing people to move to other locations—the inevitable result when no indoor alternatives are available—may increase exposure to illness for residents and the community at large.
Some cities—perhaps in belated but still welcome recognition of this interconnection—are adopting moratoria on sweeps as well as on evictions, helping to prevent
homelessness. We call on all
cities and all
states to ensure the safety and well-being of their neighbors by following their lead. We also call on communities to offer to house people experiencing homelessness in hotels or motels, at least for the duration of the crisis, as some have done
. This would allow people experiencing homelessness access to adequate sanitation and the ability to maintain social distancing.
Alternatively, while encampments
are not a long-term solution, preserving individuals’ ability to sleep in private tents instead of mass facilities through repealing—or at least pausing enforcement of—ordinances banning camping or sleeping in public would ensure people can more safely shelter in place, maintain social distancing, and reduce sleep deprivation. Encampments should be provided with preventative solutions
—like mobile toilets, sanitation stations, and trash bins—to further reduce harm.
Finally, we call on the U.S. Congress to follow the lead of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown
to include emergency rental and eviction-prevention assistance, as well as financial assistance directly to homelessness service providers, housing authorities, and housing-assistance providers, in the emergency relief bill now being considered by Congress. Congress should also put a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions—applying, at a minimum, to federally subsidized housing, including public housing and HUD housing, during the crisis.
The current public health crisis demonstrates that we are all linked together, and our collective health is only as strong as its most vulnerable parts. We appreciate whatever you can do to support us
in carrying out our work at this critical time.
Founder & Executive Director
In-Person Events Postponed
Given the health concerns and uncertainty related to COVID-19 and what may change over the next months, we have decided to postpone this year’s LEAP Lunch and National Forum on the Human Right to Housing. We hope to have the opportunity to convene and share with all of our partners in the coming months, but at this time, the health of our partners and supporters is our highest priority.
We appreciate your understanding and hope that you will attend rescheduled events later this year. If you would like to make a donation
at this critical time, or have any questions, please contact Development & Communications Director, Karianna Barr at email@example.com.
A New Generation of Young Women
Women struggle with homelessness and housing instability every day, yet women and their needs are often overlooked. For example, domestic violence
is a leading cause of homelessness for women. Still, survivors staying in specialized shelters or public places are not always counted
. It’s not an accident: gender discrimination drives increased housing instability and vulnerability to homelessness, as well as less attention to the needs of women.
Eviction often precipitates homelessness, and it affects primarily women, especially women of color. As Matthew Desmond found, women are more likely to be evicted
than men, for reasons directly related to gender. Lower wages are one reason: despite decades of advocacy, women still earn less than men for comparable work and tend to be in lower-paying jobs.
Now, even as homelessness has receded in novelty, women persist and continue to become resilient leaders in social justice movements. March 8th
marked International Women’s Day
, and the entire month is dedicated to women’s history. We welcome our supporters to join us in recognizing a new generation of young women
—some of whom have experienced homelessness themselves—who are revolutionizing housing at the forefront.
Keep Housing Fair, Fight for Housing Justice
On Monday, March 16, the Law Center submitted a comment
in response to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s proposed rule, “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.” The Law Center strongly opposes the adoption of HUD’s proposed AFFH rule and supports the continued implementation of the 2015 Rule because it creates a fair housing planning framework that emphasizes meaningful community participation, requires HUD review, and provides data and maps to better inform fair housing analysis.
While our organization strongly supports expanding high-quality affordable housing in our communities, the Proposed Rule would not work to accomplish that important goal, nor the larger goal of promoting access to high-quality housing in neighborhoods of opportunity. Instead, it will effectively eliminate an inclusive fair housing planning process meant to meaningfully address the nation’s shameful legacy of residential and neighborhood segregation.
HUD should withdraw the proposed rule and instead focus on fully implementing the 2015 Rule. The federal government has a critical role and a duty to advance fair housing choice. HUD must ensure that meaningful fair housing analysis, informed by data and community participation, as well as the goal-setting resulting from that analysis, continues.
Know Your Rights, Understand Your Options
Published as a joint project between the Law Center, Baker McKenzie, and The Walt Disney Company, the DC Homeless Youth Handbook
(DC HYH) is a user-friendly, online and print guide for unaccompanied homeless youth and advocates. The DC HYH navigates legal issues that homeless youth are prone to encounter—and how to overcome them.
Topics range from navigating the foster care system, claiming the right to an education, gaining access to health care, shelter, and housing, and supporting unique identities such as LGBTQ and undocumented youth. The DC HYH also includes a list of resources for youth. The Law Center is distributing the DC HYH to local DC organizations, DC Public Schools, and libraries.
Thus far, over 80 copies have been mailed out to service providers, schools, and other community spaces. We thank our partners at Baker McKenzie for donating the resources to ensure delivery of the Handbook. The Law Center looks forward to continuing the distribution campaign to ensure both youth and providers can be equipped with all the resources to promote justice for youth experiencing homelessness.
NEWS from the LAW CENTER
Law Center Welcomes our Emerson National Hunger Fellow
Rachel Flores is an Emerson National Hunger Fellow completing her policy placement at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, focusing on integrating racial equity more effectively in the Law Center’s work. Prior to starting at the Law Center, she spent six months in Colorado researching rural SNAP outreach.
Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Rachel graduated from Vanderbilt University in May 2019, where she received a B.S. in Community Leadership and Development and Environmental Sociology. During her time there, she found her passion for social justice through getting involved in the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities, working on issues such as workers’ rights, environmental justice, and housing and homelessness.
Lead with LEAP
Every year, law firms, legal professionals, and corporate legal departments from around the country elevate their support of the Law Center by joining the Lawyers Executive Advisory Partners, or LEAP, program. LEAP members join a community committed to protecting the rights of homeless Americans and those at risk of becoming homeless–they are the very core of support for the Law Center to achieve our mission of using the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness.
LEAP members have enhanced opportunities to engage in pro bono legal services throughout the year. LEAP members have participated in the fight to end homelessness through litigating educational rights for children, challenging anti-camping laws, researching the impact of criminalization, and so much more. We are honored to work with such esteemed partners and are grateful for the many ways that they support the Law Center. For more information about the LEAP program, visit our website
or stay tuned for information about our annual LEAP lunch.
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.