Next month’s elections are critically important, and we have two goals for them: First, to make sure the needs and rights of homeless people are front and center, and second, to ensure that people experiencing homelessness can participate.
This election is a pivotal for many reasons. Over the past few years, our advocacy for the human right to housing has been gaining momentum: Last year four presidential candidates explicitly called for it, and one of the current candidates has included it in his agenda. As a non-partisan, tax exempt organization, the National Homelessness Law Center does not endorse candidates, and we will not do so here. But we can and do promote issues critical to our mission of ending homelessness and urge voters to ask candidates for their positions on those issues.
Our election guide includes background on homelessness and the human right to housing. Please use it to ask candidates for office at all levels—federal, state, local, neighborhood—for their positions on the human right to housing. And please share it with your networks.
It’s especially important that people most directly affected vote. Voting is a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution—including for people without housing. Outreach and information to ensure that people experiencing homelessness know their rights, and can exercise them, is crucial. This year, we have partnered with the National Coalition for the Homeless to create a voting rights card for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as a manual explaining the right to vote.
This year, the pandemic has made clearer than ever the importance of a safe place to live. People without it are more vulnerable to illness, including Covid-19; if infected, they are more likely to die. The economic impact of the pandemic threatens a tsunami of evictions, putting millions at risk of losing their homes. A recent study predicts increases in homelessness of close to 50%; I fear that may be a conservative estimate.
We know homelessness can be solved—we need our leaders in government to prioritize effective, housing-based solutions, such as those we advocate in our Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign. We must use our voices every day. In November, we must also use our votes.
Founder & Executive Director
Honoring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Legacy
The National Homelessness Law Center mourns the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We are grateful for her commitment—throughout her long career—to using the power of the law to protect and advance the fundamental rights of all Americans. At this pivotal point in our history, the Law Center commits to continue following in Justice Ginsburg’s lifelong fight for equality and humanity. Our thoughts are with her family and loved ones.
Opposition to Supreme Court Nomination
Following the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the Law Center joined with 150 other groups in a letter urging the Senate to oppose her confirmation. While the nomination raises a broad range of issues, some of which are outside the Law Center’s immediate focus, it touches the core of our mission.
First, we recognize the universal and intersecting nature of human rights, and many of the concerns raised by the nomination implicate themselves in homelessness and poverty. Second, several of these concerns do specifically implicate the rights of homeless and at risk people, including access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act and LGBTQ rights. Third, as a legal organization, we are disturbed by the Senate’s hypocritical failure to follow its own recent precedent in response to the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland and the implications it has for the legitimacy of the Court.
And last, but not least, we are concerned about the prioritization of this nomination by the Senate at a time when evictions precipitated by COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis threaten mass increases in homelessness. We believe the Senate should get to work to pass #RentReliefNow.
Executive Order Subverts Racial Equity
On September 22, the Trump Administration released an executive order that expands its already problematic ban on racial equity training from government agencies to government contractors and grantees.
As founding members of the National Racial Equity Working Group on Housing and Homelessness, we want to be clear: this Executive Order is explicitly racist and is likely to have a profound chilling effect on our ability to advance racial justice work in the housing and homelessness field, and therefore on our ability to accomplish our mission to end and prevent homelessness.
The Executive Order bans contractors and grantees of federal agencies from using grant funds and federal funds for the purposes of anti-racism, anti-sexism, diversity, and inclusion training and workshops. The Law Center is pleased to have recruited the pro bono assistance of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP to develop guidance for our homeless service provider partners to help them determine exactly what is and is not prohibited by the Order. The Law Center is also partnering with other legal advocacy organizations to assess legal issues raised by the Order.
When racism and white supremacy are not explicitly named, racist structures operate silently, continuing to cause serious harm. We know that negative outcomes for Black, Native, and Latinx people are being further exacerbated every day by the global pandemic and its economic fallout on our most vulnerable neighbors. Therefore, we stand with the National Racial Equity Working Group on Housing and Homelessness to condemn this Executive Order and pledge to continue to name and challenge white supremacy and systemic racism as barriers to creating comprehensive solutions that achieve stable housing for all.
Court challenges to criminalization
Three important court cases challenging criminalization of homelessness are pending, and p the Law Center is pleased to support them as amicus curiae.
First, in City of Seattle v. Long, the Law Center, together with the ACLU of Washington, Washington Defenders Association, Seattle University School of Law Human Rights Advocacy Project, and LoGerfo Garella PLLC submitted an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff’s application for certiorari to the Washington State Supreme Court. The brief asks the Court to review the constitutionality of tows and impounds of vehicle homes without any consideration of the fact that people live in them. The Court has not yet decided whether or not to hear the case.
Second, in Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless v. City of Fall River, MA, the Law Center, with the pro bono assistance of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C., supported the plaintiffs’ arguments against a statewide anti-panhandling statute in the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The Court will hear the case on November 2.
Finally, in Garcia v. City of Los Angeles, the Law Center supported Plaintiff’s at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asking the Court to uphold a narrow injunction preventing Los Angeles from seizing and trashing “bulky property” of unhoused people based solely on its size. Arguments have not yet been scheduled.
The Law Center will update its docket as the cases move through the system. Access to these briefs and many others are available through the Housing Not Handcuffs Justice Network’s online resource bank, open to members of the Network. To join, contact Tristia Bauman at email@example.com.
National Symposium on Solutions to End Youth Homelessness Goes Virtual
With the health and safety of communities nationwide in mind, our partners at Point Source Youth moved the 4th Annual National Symposium on Solutions to End Youth Homelessness to a virtual platform! From October 20-21 2020, PSY’s virtual gathering will bring youth advocates, service providers, activists and thought-leaders from across the country together. Register for two days of programming that will center best practices for ending youth homelessness through the lens of intersectionality. Build community among 1,000+ attendees who are committed to working across movements to ensure that all youth have access to a safe, empowering place to call home. Register today and find more information here.
NEWS from the LAW CENTER
Law Center Welcomes New Arrivals
Our team is expanding, and we could not be happier to introduce our incredible new member:
Xinge He graduated from Georgetown Law in May 2020. She is very interested in the intersection between law and policy. Her work during law school includes helping on a mixed-income housing project that not only provides apartment units for low-income people, but also offers residential service and free training programs to help improve the living quality overall. Her experience as an asylum law volunteer sparked her interests in making the law more accessible to people.
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.