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.

Maggie Ardiente
Director of Development & Communications

“As one of seven children of working-class immigrant parents, I understand the barriers families face when they lack affordable housing and access to quality education. The Law Center addresses the root problems that lead to homelessness and poverty and seeks to create impactful, lasting change. I'm proud to work with a dynamic team to raise awareness of the Law Center’s vital work so that homeless individuals and families know they have a champion for their rights.”
Maggie Ardiente is the Director of Development and Communications for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, where she leads the organization’s fundraising efforts through annual and major gifts, special events, corporate and law firm giving, and foundation relations. She also manages the organization’s public and media relations and online presence. 
Maggie previously worked for twelve years as the director of development and communications at the American Humanist Association and the senior editor of its online news site, She appeared on or has been quoted in Fox News, NPR, The Washington PostThe Huffington Post, and other local and national media. She’s also served on the board of directors of the Secular Student Alliance and the Humanist Institute.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Maggie graduated with a B.S. in sociology from James Madison University and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. 


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 Assistant


“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 Assistant. she served as the Development and Communications AmeriCorps VISTA at the Law Center for a year before becoming a staff member. 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 term of 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.

Heidi Sahmel
Operations Manager


“Homelessness in the United States is a glaring reflection, if not the direct result, of the disparities that exist between incomes, races, genders, and sexual orientations in our country. Those of us with the power to do so must work tirelessly to ensure basic human rights for others, starting with a place to sleep at night.”

As the Operations Manager, Heidi is responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the Law Center, including human resources, budgeting, and administration. Additionally, she supports the Deputy Director in the areas of financial management and strategic planning.

Prior to joining the Law Center, Heidi was the Admissions & Student Finance Coordinator for a K-12 international school in Curacao for four years. She has also interned for various nonprofit organizations in the Washington, D.C. area that work to protect the rights of low-income Americans and immigrants.

Heidi earned an MBA from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, where she was the Executive Vice President of the Human Capital and Leadership Club (HCAL), and a J.D., cum laude, from American University Washington College of Law. She earned a B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a major in Psychology and a minor in German. By participating in six international exchange programs as a student, Heidi realized the true scale of poverty and homelessness within the United States and the solvability of both.

Michael Santos 


"I want to ensure that the interests of poor and homeless people are recognized and protected, especially those with more limited opportunities than I have had. We need to address the different forms of discrimination in our society by removing barriers and dismantling systemic forms of oppression through the lens of serving the needs of low-income, vulnerable, and underserved communities. We can end homelessness and poverty in the United States if we start addressing the causes and not just the symptoms of it."

Michael Santos is an attorney at the Law Center whose work focuses on advocating for homeless youth access to education through public education, impact litigation, and policy advocacy.

Prior to joining the Law Center, Michael Santos has had a long history of working on the rights of low-income and underrepresented communities through the Department of Health and Human Services and various non-profit organizations. Most recently, he was a fellow at the Clinton Foundation where he worked on an initiative to decrease the upward trend of childhood obesity in the United States.

Michael graduated from Brown University with a double concentration in Biomedical Engineering and Ethnic Studies. He received his JD from University of Southern California Gould School of Law.


Eric Tars
Senior Attorney

“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 Law Center's senior attorney, focusing on human rights and children's rights programs. In his human rights capacity, he works with homelessness and housing advocacy organizations to train and strategically utilize human rights as a component of their work. In his youth rights capacity, he works to protect homeless students' rights to education and advocates for homeless youth and families through trainings, litigation, and policy advocacy at the national and local levels.
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. Eric's work has spanned the country and the globe. He coordinated the involvement of hundreds of organizations in the hearings of the U.S. before the UN Committee Against Torture and Human Rights in 2006. Eric has conducted numerous trainings on integrating human rights strategies into domestic advocacy, and he currently serves as the chair of the US Human Rights Network's training committee and on the Steering Committee of the Human Rights at Home Campaign.

Eric received his J.D. as a Global Law Scholar at the Georgetown University Law Center. He received his B.A. 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.

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.   
Amirio Freeman
Emerson National Hunger Fellow

"Throughout my childhood, I listened to my father tell stories of his experiences growing up low-income and without adequate housing. Across the U.S., millions of individuals have stories and experiences that parallel those of my father. At the Law Center, bold, effective steps are being taken to rewrite America’s story of homelessness, creating a country where all have access to safe, affordable, and stable housing. Throughout my time as a fellow, I’m excited to be a part of the Law Center’s re-narration process."

Amirio is a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow for the Law Center, preparing a report that will document the recent nationwide trend of private citizens starting vigilante groups to target people experiencing homelessness through intimidation and violence. Prior to his placement at the Law Center, Amirio worked for Martha’s Table, where he created a guide for integrating “transformative community engagement” and assisted with the organization’s food access and community outreach and engagement efforts.

Amirio graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in Public Policy and a minor in Africana Studies. As an undergraduate student, Amirio worked as the Student Assistant for the university’s Africana Studies program, served on William & Mary’s Committee on Sustainability to make on-campus sustainability efforts more diverse and inclusive, and published an academic article in Public Opinion Quarterly (on Americans’ changing perceptions of poverty, the poor, and public assistance) as a Research Assistant in the university’s Public Policy program. Amirio also interned with the Elizabeth River Project, educating the Virginia Tidewater community about available measures that can be adopted to improve the quality of Virginia’s waterways. Amirio comes to the Law Center with a passion for galvanizing marginalized persons to make the societal changes they want to see, especially within the realms of racial equity and food systems.