IJT – September 20202020-09-16T08:44:13-05:00

September, 2020 

Dear Friends—

As the school year starts—virtually—in many communities, the challenges for homeless children and youth are even greater than usual. As with access to housing, health care, criminal justice, and so many other systems, the pandemic has magnified existing inequalities and inequities in education.

Under federal law, homeless children and youth are guaranteed equal access to education—and the supports they need to make that possible. In “normal” times, such supports include transportation, school meals, access to books and uniforms. Now access to a computer and the internet are what is critical to make their right to education a reality.

Studies show that without school stability, homeless children are more likely to repeat a grade, miss classes, and fare worse academically than their peers who remain in stable school placements. They are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental and physical health challenges.

A history of childhood homelessness increases the risk of adult homelessness. Homelessness disproportionately affects minority communities, and denial of access to education and the supports that go with it further deepens existing inequities.

Legal rights are critical—but to have a real impact on people’s lives they must be implemented and enforced. Our new know your rights guide can help advocates, service providers, parents and youth understand their rights—and claim them. Please use them! If you see violations, let us know. More resources from the Law Center and our partners are here.

Covid-19 is making clear that housing is health care—without a safe place to live, people can’t stay home, quarantine, or wash hands their hands frequently, for the safety of us all. Likewise, housing is also education: without a safe place to live, children can’t read, do homework, play and learn. Housing, health care, and education are basic human rights. We all have them and need them.

Ultimately, political leadership is critical to moving these basic rights forward. Our leaders in government, at every level, must understand the needs and rights of people who are homeless and at risk. Our election guide can help you inform candidates of these crucial necessities.

As always, thank you for your work and your support.

Maria Foscarinis

Founder & Executive Director

Homeless Youth & Education in the time of COVID-19 Webinar Recap

This month, the Law Center hosted a webinar on COVID-19 and the return to school for students experiencing homelessness, joined by Paige Joki of the Education Law Center, Alyssa Phillips and Margaret Bingham of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and Patricia Julianelle of SchoolHouse Connection. The webinar provided resources for students experiencing homelessness to assert the rights granted by the McKinney-Vento Act (see the Law Center’s toolkit here).

Attendees also heard strategies for schools trying to determine the best way to meet the education needs of their homeless students, for advocates trying to advance policy to meet distance-learning needs arising out of the pandemic, and for attorneys trying to assist clients through education and housing difficulties. Finally, attendees heard from a mother with lived experience who is currently trying to balance safety during the pandemic with her daughter’s education and the other hardships they face. You can view the recorded webinar in its entirety on the Law Center’s Youtube page. For more information on homeless youth and education, COVID-19 responses, or to connect with any of the presenters or networks of people working on these issues, please email Brandy Ryan at bryan@nlchp.org.

NEWS from the LAW CENTER

Law Center Helps Win New Eviction Moratorium But More Must Be Done

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues but the unemployment benefits and eviction moratorium from the CARES Act expired earlier this summer, the Law Center has been working with its federal partners to ensure the millions of renters impacted by the COVID-induced economic crisis do not become homeless. In September, the Centers for Disease Control, recognizing the potentially devastating health impacts of mass evictions, issued a new national moratorium on evictions until January 1, 2020.

While this this a necessary first step in the absence of other action, more action is desperately needed. The House passed the HEROES Act in May, which provides $100 billion in emergency rental assistance  $11.5 billion in other homeless assistance, $1 billion for 100,000 new emergency housing vouchers, $75 billion for a Homeowner Assistance Fund, as well as a variety of other smaller programs and a new, uniform, 12-month national moratorium on evictions. However, the Senate has not only failed to pass the HEROES Act, but instead only offered a much smaller “skinny” bill which contained no housing assistance, and which failed this past week to garner the 60 votes necessary to pass.

Without additional income or housing assistance, 30-40 million renters are estimated to be at risk of eviction, and the CDC moratorium only postpones the inevitable. Out of work renters will not be able to pay the 4 months or more of back rent they will owe by January, even if they regain employment. While the price tag is significant, an ounce of preventing homelessness will be worth a pound of cure later, especially as the potential health impacts of eviction are taken into account. The Law Center will continue its advocacy, and calls on its supporters to contact their Senators and demand #RentReliefNow!

Partial Victory In Philadelphia, But Threat Looms

The Law Center celebrates a partial victory for its partners in Philadelphia, where it has been providing key technical and legal assistance to organizers in a protest encampment that launched from the racial justice protests earlier this summer, as well as to city agencies seeking to close the encampment.

The organizers filed a request for a temporary restraining order preventing the city from evicting the encampment. Although the request was denied, the judge did require at least 72 hours’ notice be provided before an eviction could take place. Additionally, as a result of the campers demands, the city has committed to:

  1. Adding 900-1,400 new long-term housing units over the next 12-24 months, mostly using federal CARES ESG funds;
  2. Piloting a Tiny House Village; expanding SROs, Shallow Rent, and Shared Housing programs;
  3. Committing that no one who is in the COVID Prevention (hotel) Spaces will be returned to homelessness;
  4. Making 62 vacant properties available to nonprofits for acquisition for people who are unhoused and/or have extremely low incomes and working with those who have occupied vacant PHA houses on permanent housing solutions.

While we commend these positive steps to which the city has committed for resolving homelessness in the longer term, they do not meet organizers’ demands for permanent housing solutions for the encampment residents, or even for individual temporary housing options which would be consistent with the CDC guidance on encampments first issued in March.

Sterling Johnson, representative of the encampment residents, shared the following statement: “The city has not engaged able bodied residents that do not meet the CARES COVID criteria and have not engaged around making sure that housing prices stop surging as they have over the last ten years. We are looking for permanent solutions that make a place for low income people now and into the future. The city has provided solutions with curfews, drug tests and no guest policies. Those are not permanent housing solutions. We are committed to collective liberation. We are committed to black liberation.”

As of the time of publication, the city had again posted notice of an impending eviction which did not occur at the posted time, but encampment residents fear will occur with little warning. The Law Center will continue working with all parties with hopes of a positive resolution for all involved.

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.

www.nlchp.org

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