Founder &
Executive Director

Maria Foscarinis
Founder & Executive Director 


“My family suffered terribly during the German occupation of Greece in World War II, and as a child I heard my parents’ stories of starvation, deprivation and loss—as well as courageous resistance—on an almost nightly basis. I wanted to use the relative privilege of my life to fight for a world where no one has to suffer the injustice of dire poverty.” 

In the mid-1980s, Maria was a litigator at Sullivan & Cromwell, a large corporate law firm, where she volunteered to represent homeless families on a pro bono basis. After seeing the impact of first-rate legal advocacy on the lives of homeless people, she left the firm to dedicate herself to that work full-time. In 1989, she established the Law Center with one goal in mind: ending homelessness in America.

Maria has advocated for solutions to homelessness at the national level since 1985. She is a primary architect of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, the first major federal legislation addressing homelessness, and she has litigated to secure the legal rights of homeless persons. Maria has written widely on legal and policy issues affecting homeless persons; her work has appeared in scholarly as well as general audience publications. She speaks and lectures regularly on law, public policy and homelessness and is frequently quoted in the print and electronic media. She serves on the Board of Advisers of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and is Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School.

Maria is a 1977 graduate of Barnard College and a 1981 graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was Notes and Comments editor of the Law Review. She also holds a M.A. in philosophy. After graduating from law school, she clerked for the Honorable Amalya L. Kearse on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Maria is proud to be the recipient of the 2016 Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize.

Tristia Bauman
Senior Attorney


“As the daughter of a disabled father and an immigrant mother, I grew up poor and I know well the barriers to success imposed by poverty. I became a public interest attorney, and the Housing Program Director at the Law Center, to break down those barriers and to provide every person – people just like me – with the chance to thrive.”

Tristia Bauman combines litigation, legal education, and legislative advocacy strategies to prevent and end homelessness. Her work focuses on combating the criminalization of homelessness and advocating for laws that protect the civil and human rights of homeless people. Tristia also conducts legal trainings around the country, writes reports and other publications related to housing, and serves as a legal resource for homeless advocates.

Tristia began her law career at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. as a housing attorney working with low-income tenants in federally subsidized housing. She later served for several years as an Assistant Public Defender in Miami-Dade County.

Tristia hails from Auckland, New Zealand but was raised in Washington State where she attended the University of Washington as an undergraduate and law student. She received her B.A. in Anthropology in 2000 and her J.D. in 2006.


Lisa DeBone
Development & Communications Associate


“We have the resources to ensure everyone has a safe and secure home. Having a place to live provides the foundation to address so many other issues.”

Lisa is the Development and Communications Associate. She served as the Development and Communications AmeriCorps VISTA at the Law Center for a year before becoming a member of staff. Prior to joining the Law Center, Lisa served a year with AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA aiding in disaster planning, response, and recovery. While serving in FEMA Corps Lisa contributed to long-term, sustainable recovery planning at FEMA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Also during her FEMA service, Lisa responded to disasters in Louisiana, West Virginia, and Florida as part of FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance cadre.

Before joining AmeriCorps, Lisa earned a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Public Relations from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in her home state of Michigan. During her time at GVSU, she served as the Vice President of Chapter Development for the GVSU chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Through her involvement with PRSSA and internships with PR agencies Lisa was able to advance her abilities in development and communications. Lisa looks forward to furthering the mission of the Law Center by promoting awareness of solutions to homelessness and building organizational capacity.

Jolie Steinert
Executive Assistant

Jolie Steinert is the Executive Assistant. Before joining the Law Center, Jolie worked for Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Art History for three years, most recently as Program Assistant. She has interned and volunteered with ReEstablish Richmond, a refugee assistance organization, and the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). In June 2018 Jolie worked as a contractor for the DPVA, designing materials for their inaugural Blue Commonwealth Gala.
In 2018 Jolie earned a BFA in Craft and Material Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia with minors in Art History and Italian Studies. She hopes to utilize her creative mind to help the Law Center achieve its mission of ending homelessness. In the future, Jolie aspires to attend law school so she can use the power of the law to directly assist those in need.

Eric Tars
Legal Director

“My father grew up homeless, as a refugee following WWII. I believe every person deserves to be treated with the same dignity and respect for basic human rights as I would have wanted to see him and his family receive.”

Eric Tars serves as the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s Legal Director, leading its human rights, civil rights, and children’s rights programs through managing its cutting edge litigation, strategic policy advocacy, and outreach and training initiatives at the international, national, and local levels. Eric helped spearhead the launch of the Law Center’s national Housing Not Handcuffs campaign, has served as counsel of record in multiple precedent-setting cases, including Martin v. Boise in the 9th Circuit, and is frequently quoted in national and local media, including NPR, AP, New York Times, Washington Post, and VICE News.
Before coming to the Law Center, Eric was a Fellow with Global Rights' U.S. Racial Discrimination Program and consulted with Columbia University Law School's Human Rights Institute and the US Human Rights Network, where he currently serves as the vice-chair of the Network's Board.
Eric received his J.D. magna cum laude as a Global Law Scholar at the Georgetown University Law Center. He received his B.A. magna cum laude in political science from Haverford College and studied international human rights in Vienna at the Institute for European Studies and at the University of Vienna.
Eric also teaches human rights advocacy as an adjunct professor at Drexel University Kline School of Law.

Cassidy Waskowicz
Pro Bono Counsel

“After reading about the affordable housing crisis in the United States, I decided I wanted to help end and prevent homelessness.”

As Pro Bono Counsel for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, Cassidy coordinates the pro bono work that lawyers at law firms and corporations complete on behalf of the Law Center.  She also keeps these lawyers aware of available pro bono projects and Law Center events and assists with the planning of such events.
Prior to joining the Law Center, Cassidy served as the acting general counsel for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission - a commission created by Congress in 2009 to "Examine the causes of the current financial and economic crisis of the United States."  While at the Commission, Cassidy was involved in all aspects of the Commission's legal work, including drafting and negotiating the publishing agreements of the Commission; advising the Commission on how to respond to requests made by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; coordinating the Commission's document retention policy with the National Archives and Records Administration; advising Commission staff on obligations under confidentiality agreements; and drafting staff and vendor contracts.  Before working at the Commission, Cassidy worked at Hunton & Williams, in both the firm’s New York and Washington offices.  While at the firm, Cassidy was a corporate lawyer with varied experience related to real estate, asset securitization and corporate governance.  During the summer after her first year at Cornell Law School, she worked at Legal Aid, Brooklyn Office for the Aging.  Cassidy also worked on Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential Campaign. 
Cassidy earned a J.D. from Cornell Law School.  She is a graduate of Wellesley College, graduating cum laude in history.  Cassidy lived in Singapore for two years with her family where she also worked as a contract lawyer for a small telecommunications company located in California.   



AmeriCorps VISTAs  

Nicole Davies
Data Management VISTA

“When I was young my mother taught me that it is important to help others.  We did not have much money so we would give back to our community by volunteering together. I want to continue to help others and work towards the goal of ending homelessness.”

Nicole is serving as the Data Management AmeriCorps VISTA at the Law Center. Prior to serving with AmeriCorps, Nicole worked for a nonprofit in Washington DC for over ten years.  Her work there included program coordinator for a professional development program, Associate Editor of an online science review journal, logistical and administrative support for a hands on summer science program, and data management for various projects and meetings. Before moving to the DC area, she worked for the New York State Assembly for two legislative sessions. 

Nicole is originally from Rome, New York. She studied Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY and earned her B.A. During college, she interned for the New York Public Interest Research Group, Legal Aid Society, and the New York State Assembly.

Rachel Lee
Networks and Events AmeriCorps VISTA

“Growing up, I was cognizant of poverty in America because of my father’s experiences with poverty when he was young and my mother’s experience immigrating to the United States from Sri Lanka when she was a teenager. My parents were able to provide me with the opportunities and resources that they had lacked, which inspired me to work towards ending homelessness and poverty.”

As the Networks and Events AmeriCorps VISTA at the Law Center, Rachel’s work is focused on sustaining and expanding the Housing Not Handcuffs campaign. Rachel is excited to be a part of the Law Center, which does amazing work that addresses the causes of poverty in impactful and long-lasting ways.

Prior to joining AmeriCorps VISTA, Rachel graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas with a B.A. in History and Political Science and a minor in Sociology. During her time in college, Rachel served as Vice President of Rice University’s Pre-law Society and as Vice President of Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science honor society. She was very involved with Rice’s chapter of Camp Kesem, the only national non-profit organization that attends to the needs of kids affected by their parent’s cancer. Rachel also interned at several non-profit and government organizations including: International Emergency and Development Aid Relief, FuelEd Schools, the Texas First Court of Appeals, the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee, and the Office of Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.