Reports & Publications by Category
A variety of useful resources on the key issues involving homelessness in America.
All Reports & Publications
A collection of reports by NLCHP and related organizations to help advocates fighting homelessness in America.
Housing Not Handcuffs 2019:Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities
Housing is a human right. While three-quarters of Americans agree that housing is a human right, and an increasing number of elected officials are addressing it as such, our country has not put in place the policies to ensure that right, and as a consequence, millions of Americans experience homelessness in a national crisis that gets worse each year. Many people experiencing homelessness have no choice but to live outside, yet cities routinely punish or harass unhoused people for their presence in public places. Nationwide, people without housing are ticketed, arrested, and jailed under laws that treat their life-sustaining conduct—such as sleeping or sitting down—as civil or criminal offenses.
We refer to these policies—laws that restrict or prohibit different categories of conduct performed by homeless people—and their enforcement collectively as the “criminalization of homelessness.” This report—the only national report of its kind—provides an overview of laws in effect across the country that punish homelessness.
2019 Alone Without A Home: A National Review of State Laws Affecting Unaccompanied Youth
This report provides a state-by-state review of laws in 13 key issue areas that affect the lives of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. Topics include status offenses, emancipation statutes, health care access, consent and confidentiality statutes, and juvenile justice system statutes. It also offers an overview of the range of approaches taken by jurisdictions and the relative prevalence of these approaches and includes detailed indexes where advocates can find the relevant laws in their state or jurisdiction. Importantly, the report also provides recommendations for policy changes in each of the 13 issue areas, with a view towards strengthening the supports available to unaccompanied youth.
This report details U.S. human rights obligations, and where they are currently not being met, for the review of the United Nations. It also details how the U.S. could meet its existing obligations with further action and policy.
The Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) Campaign has important information on the proposed changes to the regulations on being considered a public charge in immigration. This status can negatively impact immigration applications, and potentially cause them to be denied. The information provided includes a resources page with fact sheets, FAQs, and other useful documents.
McKinney-Vento Education Toolkit
Homelessness is traumatic, especially for children, who lose their neighborhood, friendships, routines, and even school. But the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act protects youth’s right to stay in their school. The Law Center published two toolkits for families experiencing homelessness— including those doubled up with others after losing their own housing—that address the education rights of their children, which are protected under federal law. View the New York State McKinney-Vento toolkit or Federal McKinney-Vento toolkit.
This report analyzes data from surveys of people experiencing homelessness in New York City and their interactions with law enforcement. The report includes recommendations for ending the criminalization of homelessness on both the local and national level.
Scoring Points: How Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness Can Increase HUD Funding to Your Community
For the fourth time since 2015, the annual Notice Of Funding Application (NOFA) offers additional points to communities that document the steps they are taking to combat the criminalization of homelessness.
State Index on Youth Homelessness
The Law Center and the True Colors Fund released a first-of-its-kind resource that evaluates all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness.
Protect Tenants, Prevent Homelessness
This report details the relationship between renters’ rights, evictions, and homelessness and provides recommendations for improving housing security among vulnerable populations.
Tent City USA: The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments and How Communities are Responding
The report reviews the rapid growth of homeless people living in tents across the United States over the past decade, as measured by documentation in media reports.
Don’t Count on It: How the HUD Point-in-Time Count Underestimates the Homelessness Crisis in America
Though HUD reported 554,000 homeless Americans on any given night—itself a number that is unacceptably large—the Law Center’s report suggests this number is actually a significant undercount. The report addresses flaws in HUD’s inconsistent methodology, which particularly misses unsheltered homeless people.
Homeless Education Advocacy Manual: Disaster Edition
Pre-K through 12 students who have been displaced by disaster have the right to attend school under federal law. With pro bono support from Schulte Roth & Zabel LLC, the Law Center has released a new report to provide guidance to students and families navigating the school system after being displaced by disaster. (2017).
Extreme Poverty & Human Rights Report 2017: Violations of the Human Rights of Persons Experiencing Homelessness in the United States – A Report to the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty & Human Rights
This report, submitted to the U.N. Special Rapporteur in advance of his planned December 2017 visit to the U.S., outlines violations of the human rights of persons experiencing homelessness — essentially the most extreme form of poverty — in the United States of America.
This fact sheet offers a quick primer on the criminalization of homelessness. Advocates can bring this with them to meetings with public officials, distribute it at conferences or public actions, and share with others to educate them on the criminalization of homelessness.
Violations of the Right to Privacy for Persons Experiencing Homelessness in the United States: A Report to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy
What little privacy a homeless person enjoys rests on their personal belongings and makeshift dwellings, but “sweeps” of homeless encampments frequently result in the seizure and destruction of homeless persons’ property. People experiencing homelessness can also face criminal charges if police disregard the walls of their tents or tarps and uncover evidence of crimes (such as possession of drugs) in searches that would be impermissible in someone’s house. Because homelessness falls disproportionately on communities of color, LGBTQ individuals (particularly youth), persons with disabilities, and women and families fleeing domestic violence, these violations frequently intersect with other forms of discrimination, and result in further marginalization of these homeless individuals.
Public Property/Public Need: A Toolkit for Using Vacant Federal Property to End Homelessness
This toolkit by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty will help public and private non-profit service providers obtain unused federal land and real property to serve and house homeless people. Under Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Title V), local governments, state agencies, and non-profit groups that serve homeless people have a right of first refusal to certain property that is no longer needed by the federal government. The federal government will convey these properties by deed or lease to successful applicants for free. This toolkit provides an overview of the Title V program, and answers many commonly asked questions about how to identify and successfully apply for available properties.
Housing Not Handcuffs: A Litigation Manual
This litigation manual provides an overview of legal theories that have been used successfully to challenge criminalization policies and practices, and it also sets forth several important considerations for bringing litigation on behalf of homeless people. In addition, it includes numerous summaries of cases that have been brought over the years to protect the civil and human rights of homeless people.
Getting the Justice Department on Your Side: A Guide to Filing a Complaint
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a statement of interest in federal court arguing that it is unconstitutional to criminalize sleeping in public places without providing adequate shelter space in the area. While that case – Bell v. City of Boise – is now on appeal, the profusion of state and local laws facilitating abuse of homeless persons makes it likely that the DOJ will be looking for opportunities to use its enforcement powers of intervention or investigation in the future. You need not be an attorney to file a complaint, and this fact sheet provides some helpful tips to those looking to get the Justice Department on your side.
Human Right to Housing Report Card, 2016
This report card assesses the current level of US compliance with the human right to housing in the context of American homelessness. In doing so, we consider the country as a whole, and policy at all levels of government, as it relates to homelessness, including its prevention.
Housing Not Handcuffs: Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities
Homelessness remains a national crisis, as stagnated wages, rising rents, and a grossly insufficient social safety net have left millions of people homeless or at-risk. Although many people experiencing homelessness have no choice but to live in public places, laws and enforcement practices punishing the presence of visibly homeless people in public space continue to grow. Homeless people, like all people, must engage in activities such as sleeping or sitting down to survive. Yet, in communities across the nation, these harmless behaviors are punished as crimes or civil infractions.
No Barriers: A Legal Advocate’s Guide to Ensuring Compliance with the Education Program of the McKinney-Vento Act
This manual is designed to provide legal advocates with an understanding of the relevant provisions of McKinney-Vento, and the legal tools needed to effectively assist homeless children and youth in accessing school, including challenges ahead, compliance resources, and lessons learned from litigation. Furthermore, the manual identifies other federal laws and state laws that offer legal protections to homeless children and youth.
Homeless Students Count: How States and School Districts Can Comply with the New McKinney-Vento Education Law Post-ESSA
Too many states were struggling to make schools accessible to students experiencing homelessness, even before heightened legal requirements went into effect this fall. This report, based on a national survey of current state laws, flags common areas where states need to take aggressive action to come into full compliance with federal law, including the amendments to the federal McKinneyVento Homeless Assistance Act that went into effect on October 1, 2016.
This document provides answers to frequently asked questions on the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and the education rights of children and youth in homeless situations. The answers are general responses based on federal statutes, regulations, and guidance; relevant case law; and best practices from across the country.
Homelessness In America: Overview of Data and Causes
This fact sheet provides statistics and information related to the demographics of people experiencing homelessness, as well as the causes of homelessness.
Human Rights to Human Reality: A 10 Step Guide to Strategic Human Rights Advocacy
Working consistently for the past two decades, the Law Center is achieving unprecedented success in getting federal agencies to address the criminalization of homelessness as a human rights violation. This guide presents ten steps as a case study of our experiences that we believe can help others achieve broader respect for, and implementation of, human rights.
CAT Criminalization Shadow Report 2014: Criminalization of Homelessness in the United States of America
Submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture for its 2014 Review of the United States of America
September 15, 2014
This report was submitted by the Law Center as the chair of the US Human Rights Network’s CAT Homelessness Working Group discussing the criminalization of homelessness in the United States as part of the U.S.’s review by the U.N. Committee Against Torture. The Working Group included the National Coalition for the Homeless and Southern Legal Counsel, and the report was endorsed by an additional thirty-seven organizations and seven individuals.
UPR Housing Report 2014: Housing and Homelessness in the United States of America
Submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of United States of America, September 15, 2014
This report, submitted by the Law Center and the US Human Rights Network UPR Housing Working Group, and endorsed by an additional forty-six organizations and individuals, discusses the housing and homelessness in the United States in relation to the US’s human rights obligations.
CERD Housing Report 2014: A Report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Racial Discrimination in Housing and Homelessness in the United States, July 3, 2014
This report, submitted by the Law Center and LACAN, and endorsed by an additional thirty-nine organizations and individuals, discusses the violations of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in the areas of housing and homelessness in the United States.
From Wrongs to Rights: The Case for Homeless Bill of Rights Legislation
There is a new legislative tool gaining momentum across the country: homeless bills of rights. This report surveys the common rights violations experienced by homeless Americans, describes homeless bills of rights enacted and proposed in several states, and provides advocates with guidance for pursuing similar legislation in their states.
Volume 45, Issue 3 (2014)
On April 26, 2013, the Law Center co-hosted a national symposium on Bringing Economic & Social Rights Home: The Right to Adequate Housing in the United States. Articles in this special issue of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review provide an important complement to, and expansion of, the day’s discussion. Authored by symposium participants and experts in the field, these essays explore in greater detail several of the topics touched upon in the symposium and contribute to the emerging literature exploring opportunities to establish the human right to housing in the United States.
Can I Get Some Remedy? Criminalization of Homelessness and the Obligation to Provide an Effective Remedy
45 Col. HRLR 738 (2014)
This Article reviews the types of remedies available and those ordered by federal and state courts in both criminalization of homelessness and non-criminalization cases, and evaluates courts’ reluctance to provide greater, more effective relief for homeless plaintiffs. Not only do U.S. courts have the ability to fashion comprehensive equitable remedies such as providing housing when traditional ones have been proven ineffective, but evolving standards among international human rights courts and national constitutional courts may eventually obligate them to do so in order to protect the human rights of vulnerable populations.
This fact sheet, describing the challenges faced by many homeless persons in their encounters with the criminal justice system, was presented at the April 1st, 2014 consultation on Access to Justice to over fifty representatives from the Departments of Justice, State, Housing & Urban Development, and the White House Office of Domestic Policy Council.
Welcome Home: The Rise of Tent Cities in the United States
This report documents the rise of homeless encampments and “tent cities” across the United States, and the legal and policy responses to that growth.
U.N. Human Rights Committee Calls U.S. Criminalization of Homelessness “Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading”
The U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva condemned the criminalization of homelessness in the United States as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” that violates international human rights treaty obligations, and called upon the U.S. government to take corrective action.
This letter from the IAOHRA President and Columbia’s Human Rights Institute promotes the human rights resolutions passed in 2013, including those related to the criminalization of homelessness and Homeless Bills of Rights.
Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading: Homelessness in the United States under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee
This report details violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) stemming from U.S. policy toward the more than 3.5 million people who experience homelessness in the U.S. annually. While the U.S. government should be commended for recognizing that the imposition of criminal penalties on homeless people is counterproductive public policy in violation of the ICCPR and Convention Against Torture, criminalization of homelessness at the state and local levels continues to cause significant rights violations.
Project LEARN Flyer
This flyer is a brief know-your-rights sheet, helpful for informing parents of the rights of children experiencing homelessness. It includes space for schools to add the contact information for their district’s homeless liaison.
This fact sheet addresses the impact of VAWA 2013 on the housing rights of survivors of domestic violence.
In 2005, in response to Congressional findings that families are discriminated against, denied access to, and evicted from housing because of their status as survivors of domestic violence, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and included new housing protections for these survivors. While VAWA provides federal housing protections for survivors of domestic violence, its protections are limited. To fill the gap, many states have enacted legislation that goes beyond the limited protections offered in VAWA. In this 50 state review, we summarize the canon of state laws designed to counteract some of the common housing problems faced by victims of domestic violence.
Homeless Education Advocacy Manual – 2013 Disaster Edition
For those recovering from a disaster, man-made or natural, immediate needs for income and housing may overshadow critical concerns about education of children and youth. However, the needs of displaced students should also be considered. This manual is designed to encourage and assist advocates working with displaced students seeking access to appropriate educational services.
Eviction (Without) Notice: Renters and the Foreclosure Crisis
This report focuses on a critically important, but often overlooked, aspect of the foreclosure crisis: its impact on tenants. A 2009 federal law, the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (“PTFA”), created important new rights for tenants living in foreclosed properties. Many tenants and their advocates are unaware of these rights, however, and banks and their agents are often in violation of the law. This report reviews the impact of foreclosure on tenants, summarizes the provisions of the new law, describes ongoing violations of the PTFA, and provides a review of changes in state law since the PTFA’s enactment.
Alone Without A Home: A State-by-State Review of Laws Affecting Unaccompanied Youth (2012)
Each year, an estimated 1.6 million children and youth (ages 12-17) experience homelessness without a parent or guardian. unaccompanied homeless youth face numerous legal barriers that often complicate their attempts to meet the basic necessities of life on their own and prevent them from reaching out for assistance to state agencies and service providers that could otherwise help them. This report reviews the state of current law in 12 key issue areas that affect the lives and future prospects of unaccompanied homeless youth in all 50 U.S. states and 6 territories.
Opening the Door to the Human Right to Housing: The Universal Periodic Review and Strategic Federal Advocacy for a Rights-Based Approach to Housing
This article was published in the September-October 2011 edition of Clearinghouse REVIEW Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, Volume 45, Numbers 5-6.
Beds and Buses: How Affordable Housing Can Help Reduce Transportation Costs
While transportation must continue as an essential service for homeless students, a better option for the students, and more cost-effective resolution for the community, is preventing homelessness from forcing the family or youth out of the district in the first place. This paper proposes schools and communities work together to create more affordable housing to supplement exclusive reliance on McKinney-Vento transportation policies. When possible, housing a student and their family in their district of origin is a more efficient and more effective alternative to transporting students back to that district.
Simply Unacceptable: Homelessness and the Human Right to Housing in the United States
Prior to the foreclosure crisis and economic recession, homelessness was already a national crisis. Since then, homelessness has increased dramatically. This report assesses the current level of U.S. compliance with the human right to housing in the context of American homelessness. In doing so, we consider the country as a whole, and policy at all levels of government, as it related to homelessness, including its prevention. It is not, and not intended to be, a comprehensive review and assessment of implementation of all aspects of the right.
A Place at the Table: Prohibitions on Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness
Uncomfortable with visible homelessness in their communities and influenced by myths about homeless people’s food access, cities use food sharing restrictions to move homeless people out of sight, an action that often exacerbates the challenges people experiencing homelessness face each day just to survive. This report focuses on ordinances, policies, and tactics that discourage or prohibit individuals and groups from sharing food with homeless persons. The report also highlights constructive alternatives to food sharing restrictions, in the form of innovative programs that both adults and youth are implementing to share food with people experiencing homelessness in their communities.
This article was published in the Winter 2009 edition of the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Volume XVI, Number 1.
This article was published in the January-February 2009 edition of Clearinghouse REVIEW Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, Volume 42, Numbers 9-10.
Photo identification is a necessity in modern daily life. Many homeless persons, however, lack photo identification because of the difficulty of maintaining important documents while homeless. People without photo identification have difficulty accessing the critical services and benefits that help move people out of poverty. After September 11, 2001, homeless persons face additional, significant barriers when they lack a photo ID.