I’m writing during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week, and just before our annual McKinney-Vento Awards event—which also aims to raise awareness as well as funds to support our work for solutions. These events are critical reminders.
But homelessness is a crisis every day and night of the year:
- Each year, one in 10 young adults aged 18-25 experiences homelessness, with Black LBGTQ youth experiencing the highest rates.
- During the 2016-17 school year—the latest for which we have this data—more than 1.3 million school children were identified as homeless.
- From 2006 to 2016, city laws making it a crime to sleep in public anywhere in the city increased by 31%.
- During this time—and now–in no part of the country was there sufficient emergency shelter or housing affordable to extremely low-income people. Only 1 in 4 of people poor enough to qualify for housing assistance actually receives it.
So as we raise awareness, we are also working to address the crisis:
- Our State Index on Youth Homelessness, published by the Law Center with True Colors United, supports our campaign to end youth homelessness—helping states reform laws and policies, and holding them accountable if they do not.
- Our new DC Homeless Youth Handbook—created with pro bono support by Disney and Baker McKenzie—helps local homeless youth know and claim their legal rights.
- Our Know Your Rights guides, now in Spanish as well as English, help homeless families know their children’s rights to go to school—and how to assert them.
- Our landmark court ruling in Martin v. Boise directly protects unsheltered people in nine states from arrest simply for being homeless—and affects policy nationally, helping us mobilize for Housing Not Handcuffs.
It’s also just before Thanksgiving, and I am grateful to all my colleagues at the Law Center, staff and board, for dedicating their passion, talent and energy to using the power of the law to end and prevent homelessness in America. And we are all deeply grateful to our supporters, for making this critical work possible.
Founder & Executive Director
Boise Camping Case at Supreme Court
The Martin v. Boise case, brought by Idaho Legal Aid Services, the Law Center, and Latham & Watkins LLP, remains on possible appeal to the Supreme Court. On August 22, the city filed its official petition asking the court to “grant certiorari,” or take the case. A week later, 89 different jurisdictions, organizations, and individuals filed their amici, or friend of the court briefs, in support of Boise’s petition.
On October 25, the Law Center and its partners filed our response, asking the court not to take the case and to let the decision stand. The city has filed a response brief, and then we expect the Court to consider the case in early December, and to find out its decision soon after. Potentially it may take longer if there is disagreement or desire for further consideration.
We hope the Court will deny the petition, and that we will be able to go forth with a strong strategy to use the decision to promote Housing Not Handcuffs in the 9th Circuit and beyond, but we will be prepared for either scenario. Stay tuned—we will let our supporters know as soon as possible!
Law Center Partners Deliver Letter, Testimony to Austin City Council
On October 10th, the Law Center’s pro bono partners at Dechert LLP delivered a letter to Austin, TX’s City Hall regarding a recent conflict between Austin’s city council and the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. The City of Austin had revised previous ordinances criminalizing homelessness in June. However, the city then came under pressure from Governor Abbott to reinstate the penalties. The Law Center advised the city to stay the course on decriminalization in its letter.
As the Austin City Council convened to discuss a course of action on October 17th, a representative from Dechert LLP, speaking on behalf of the Law Center, further reinforced the points that criminalization was costly and ineffective, and that an approach emphasizing housing, not handcuffs, would be the best way to prevent and end homelessness.
But despite our efforts, the city council reinstating some aspects of the rules repealed in June. However, the laws have not swung fully back to the way they were prior to June, marking at least some degree of progress achieved. The Law Center remains concerned about the situation in Austin, especially in light of the governor’s continued intervention with sweeps and other criminalization efforts. We will continue to work with the city and local partners in an attempt to ensure the city’s unhoused population is not harmed by criminalization.
Litigation Against Florida Highway Patrol Reaches Settlement, Continues Against Sheriff of St. John’s County
In February of this year, Southern Legal Counsel and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty sued St. Johns County Sheriff David B. Shoar and Florida Highway Patrol Director Gene Spaulding on behalf of Peter Vigue, a St. Augustine resident who has been repeatedly arrested for standing on the public right of way and soliciting donations. Prior court rulings found the statutes these arrests were made under to be unconstitutional, but they are still enforced. However, late this September, the Florida Highway Patrol Director came to a settlement with Vigue and his counsel, which will limit enforcement of the challenged statutes throughout the entire state of Florida.
Litigation against Sheriff Shoar continues.
Three Years of the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign
This past Friday, November 15th, marked the third anniversary of the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign. The Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign combats laws and policies that seek to criminalize people experiencing homelessness. Instead of addressing why residents are experiencing homelessness, cities have increasingly turned to punitive responses, such as criminalizing sleeping outside, in a tent, or in one’s vehicle. Enforcement of these tactics is ineffective, expensive, and only further stigmatizes unhoused people. Instead, cities should work to ensure its residents have access to affordable housing so that no one has to experience homelessness. With your support, the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign has gained over 1,000 endorsers, reaching passionate individuals and organizations nation-wide. To further support the Campaign, please share the campaign’s message on social media with #HousingNotHandcuffs, and encourage others to endorse here.
McKinney-Vento Awards: Today’s the day!
Since 1989, the Law Center has used the power of the law to advocate for millions of people whose voices are seldom heard. Today, we are so excited to celebrate the work, dedication, and successes of leaders who advance solutions to end homelessness and poverty.
Our gratitude goes out to everyone who made the McKinney-Vento Awards possible, including our event sponsors, supporters, and volunteers!
A SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO OUR SPONSORS:
We hope everyone has a great time tonight and don’t forget to use our hashtag #McKinneyVentoAwards to be featured on our Twitter moment and timeline!
Law Center in the Media
Nevada Current (11/18/2019) Las Vegas proposes new ordinance further restricting sidewalk use
New England Public Radio (11/18/2019) City Leaders In Austin Clash With Texas Governor Over Homeless Issue
Hilltop Views (11/18/2019) New shelter near airport set to house homeless population in Austin, says Abbott
NPR (11/18/2019) City Leaders In Austin Clash With Texas Governor Over Homeless Issue
Nevada Independent (11/17/2019) Las Vegas homeless navigate their quest for a resting spot amid new ordinance that limits legal options
Sacramento Bee (11/13/2019) ‘We’ll probably be sued over this’: New Yuba County rule bans camping on levees, parks
Builder Online (11/12/2019) THE GOVERNOR OF TEXAS IS OPENING A HOMELESS CAMP OUTSIDE AUSTIN
Spare Change News (11/11/2019) Austin expels homeless from under bridge, promises them giant tent
Texas Observer (11/8/2019) Governor Launches Camp, Backs ‘Mega-Tent’ for Austin’s Homeless, Surprising Advocates
Southern Poverty Law Center (11/8/2019) Criminalizing homelessness in the heart of Dixie
New York Times (11/7/2019) Texas Governor Opens Homeless Campsite Amid Feud With Austin
Austin Chronicle (11/7/2019) Questions Abound as New Campground, Shelter Plans Announced
Portland Mercury (11/7/2019) A New Parks Policy Threatens to Hurt Portland’s Poorest Residents
Real Change News (11/6/2019) Identify yourself
Piscataquis Observer (11/5/2019) Vacant houses could provide shelter
Colorado Boulevard (11/4/2019) There’s a Link Between Evictions and Homelessness
Economy Watch (11/1/2019) November is HomeAid’s Homelessness Awareness Month
Texas Observer (11/1/2019) Greg Abbott vs. Austin’s Homeless
Real Change News (10/30/2019) Tacoma seeks 400 shelter beds ahead of December tent ban
Boston College Heights (10/26/2019) Changing the Narrative Behind Affordable Housing
Washington City Paper (10/25/2019) District Line Daily: Tensions in NoMa
Tacoma Weekly News (10/25/2019) Hilltop homeless camp sweep draws protest from neighbors
The Appeal (10/25/2019) AUSTIN BRACES AS TEXAS OFFICIALS PLAN CRACKDOWN ON HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS
Credit Union Times (10/24/2019) Calling It ‘Illegal’ Won’t Solve a Thing
Washington City Paper (10/24/2019) In Emails to City, NoMa Residents Call for Underpass Encampments to Be Cleared
Teen Vogue (10/24/2019) Youth Homelessness Is a Huge Problem. But Few 2020 Candidates Are Talking About It.
Nevada Current (10/22/2019) Proposed city ordinance pits businesses against homeless providers
Suburban Times (10/21/2019) TTOC Condemns the City of Tacoma’s Sweep of a Tent Encampment in the Cold and Rain
Las Vegas Review Journal (10/21/2019) Las Vegas’ homeless camping ban faces legal, logistical hurdles
Deseret News (10/19/2019) People who can’t afford rent are living in their cars, and cities aren’t sure what to do about them
The Bakersfield Californian (10/19/2019) COMMUNITY VOICES: Ending homelessness as a community
The Santa Clarita Valley Signal (10/19/2019) Mark Cripe | Seeking Positive Return for the 25th
The DC Line (10/17/2019) Coy McKinney: The case for a radical BID
WORLD (10/16/2019) Open streets
Nevada Current (10/15/2019) County official says city homeless ordinance would be burdensome, create fear
Connecticut Mirror (10/15/2019) Housing is a human right. It’s time the U.S. recognized it
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.