||A publication of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
|Working to end homelessness and poverty in America
||Vol. 6, No. 6
||From Maria's Desk
Four years ago, Scotland enacted national
legislation to ensure the human right to
housing for all homeless persons within 10
years. It's an enforceable right. An
individual denied the right to housing can go
to court to enforce it.
The 10 year time frame may be familiar to
housing advocates, but while the U.S.
government is promoting 10 year plans,
Scotland has created rights.
According to a conversation I recently had
with a key proponent of Scotland's advocacy
campaign, the unity forged within the
"housing lobby" was essential to its
enactment. A receptive government official
also made a difference. Despite the
challenges, I believe a similar campaign is
statement, recently drafted and signed by
national organizations, defines the national
policies needed to end homelessness. It is a
powerful start and it should form the basis
for legislation that moves law and policy to
end homelessness forward. It should be widely
circulated and signed by local, regional and
Earlier this month Louise Arbour, the U.N.
High Commissioner for Human Rights, made an
official visit to the U.S. I had the
opportunity to tell her about the housing
crisis in the U.S and the assault on the
rights and dignity of homeless and poor
people in our country. She and the other
advocates in the room were visibly shocked as
I described how local governments are
beginning to punish people who share food
with homeless people in public places.
Human rights principles can and should also
inform the foundation of our advocacy agenda
and our next steps forward. NLCHP is
planning to follow up on this meeting in an
effort to further engage the Commissioner and
the human rights community.
For more information on the meeting with the
U.N. High Commissioner, please see the
article entitled: Food
Sharing Bans Shock U.N. High Commissioner on
To sign the consensus
statement, e-mail Laurel
Weir or call her at 202-638-2535.
||Court Order Protects Rights of Katrina Victims
On June 13, the U.S. District Court in New
Orleans granted motions for a preliminary
injunction and class certification in a
lawsuit against the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) on behalf of
low-income individuals driven from their
homes by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The lawsuit filed by NLCHP; Steptoe &
Johnson LLP; Weil, Gotshal & Manges
LLP; and a coalition of
public interest organizations and private law
firms, alleges that FEMA unlawfully
terminated assistance to the plaintiffs
without proper notice, without an opportunity
to appeal the decision, and without a fair
"The court's order will protect tens of
thousands of people from becoming homeless,"
explained Maria Foscarinis, NLCHP Executive
Director. "People who are still suffering
from the devastation of Katrina know first
hand the chaos that has characterized FEMA's
response. Now a federal court has ruled that
FEMA's response is not only unacceptable, but
also unconstitutional. This is truly a major
The suit, Ridgely v. FEMA, alleges that
FEMA's process of terminating assistance
violates hurricane victims' right to due
process under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution. The suit also challenges FEMA's
actions in cutting off assistance to
individuals that it claims were overpaid
without explaining why it believes the person
was overpaid, without informing them that
they can request a hardship waiver, and
without providing an opportunity to contest
the overpayment determination.
"FEMA is supposed to provide assistance to
people in times of great need," Catherine
Bendor, NLCHP Deputy Legal Director said.
"The agency is cutting off vital housing
assistance to recipients who have not had a
chance to be heard and who often don't even
know why their assistance is being terminated."
The plaintiffs also contend that FEMA failed
to publish standards setting forth the
eligibility requirements, that it operated an
unresponsive system of administrative review,
and that it issued termination notices that
were confusing and contained little more than
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction
requiring FEMA to comply with the
requirements of the Constitution by providing
individuals displaced by Hurricane Katrina,
and victims of future disasters, with clear
notification of the reasons why it is denying
continued housing assistance or seeking
repayment of assistance, as well as an
opportunity for disaster victims to appeal a
decision and receive a fair hearing.
"Since the Gulf Coast hurricanes, FEMA's
system of administering aid has proven time
and again to be flawed," Bendor explained.
"The haphazard method in which FEMA has
administered assistance is unacceptable."
here for more information about Ridgely v.
here for an article about the decision from
the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
here for a U.S.A. Today story about the
Hurricane Katrina Victims.
||Food-Sharing Bans Shock U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights
On June 7, NLCHP Executive Director Maria
Foscarinis gave testimony
at an invitation only briefing on human
rights issues in the U.S. with the UN High
Commissioner on Human Rights, Louise
Arbour. NLCHP reported on U.S. cities
prohibiting or restricting charitable
organizations and individuals from sharing
food with homeless people in public places.
NLCHP's description of U.S. cities' food
sharing restrictions elicited one of the
strongest reactions from the High
Commissioner. Despite hearing countless
stories about human rights abuses from around
the globe, the High Commissioner and the
entire U.N. delegation were visibly shocked
when they heard about the callousness of the
Recent ordinances passed in Dallas, Las
Vegas, and Orlando threaten charitable
organizations and individuals that share food
with homeless people with criminal punishment
These bans especially threaten the health of
disabled persons who are homeless and cannot
access centralized food distribution points.
The bans also violate the most basic of
human rights, the right to life, along with
the rights to food and health.
The High Commissioner expressed interest in
working with NLCHP to address these
violations, and NLCHP plans to follow up on
with her office. NLCHP is already involved in
ongoing or pending litigation on the food
sharing restrictions in these cities, and is
integrating international advocacy with its
domestic campaigns on behalf of the
charitable institutions and the homeless
people they serve.
For more information on NLCHP's Human Rights
program, contact Eric Tars.
here for the testimony of NLCHP Executive
Director Maria Foscarinis.
here for the report submitted to the U.N.
High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Thanks to the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and
the U.S. Human Rights Fund for their support
of the Human Rights program at NLCHP.
||Affordable Housing Fund Proposal Passes the House
On May 22, the Federal Housing Financial
Reform Act of 2007, H.R. 1427, was passed by
the House of Representatives. The bill
includes a provision that would create an
affordable housing program for low-income
persons that uses funds set aside from
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The program would provide approximately $500
million for affordable low-income housing
each year. Additionally, the bill would
allow the funds to be used as a dedicated
revenue source for a National Housing Trust
Fund if such a fund is enacted in the future.
Several amendments offered on the House floor
by opponents of the Affordable Housing Fund
(AHF) were defeated. The defeated amendments
included removing the program from the bill
and preventing the funds from being set-aside
in the future for a National Housing Trust
Thanks to the many NLCHP supporters who
contacted their Members of Congress urging
them to support the AHF and reject the
A few negative amendments were added to H.R.
1427, including one that would require
persons wishing to reside in AHF housing to
provide identification documents. The list
of acceptable identification documents is
very limited. It includes REAL ID-compliant
documentation and other identification
documents that may be difficult for homeless
persons to obtain. NLCHP is seeking to have
that provision removed or altered if the bill
goes before a conference committee.
NLCHP will work for passage of the Affordable
Housing Fund in the Senate. If you would
like more information or would like to get
involved in supporting the legislation,
please contact Laurel Weir.
||Trainings for Attorneys and Service Providers in DC, Maryland, and Virginia
During the summer and early fall, NLCHP is
conducting a training entitled, "Improving
Housing and School Stability for Domestic
Violence Survivors and Their Children" at
locations in DC, Virginia, and Maryland. The
training is designed to assist service
providers, advocates, and attorneys who help
families affected by domestic violence.
The training includes information about
recent changes to the Violence Against Women
Act that can protect survivors from eviction
and increase their access to housing. In
addition, it includes information about the
McKinney-Vento Act which ensures that
children can easily enroll in school and
maintain school placements while protecting
the privacy of the families.
The first session was held on June 19 in
Washington, DC at King & Spalding LLP.
Repeat sessions will likely be held in
Baltimore, Richmond, and via teleconference.
Keep checking the NLCHP
website for more information about the
NLCHP would like to thank the Freddie Mac
Foundation for its generous support of the
Children & Youth and Domestic Violence
||Save the Date! 9th Annual McKinney Vento Awards on October 24
On Wednesday, October 24, 2007, NLCHP
will host the 9th Annual McKinney-Vento
Awards at the Hotel Monaco in Washington,
D.C. This event honors individuals and
organizations for their leadership in
advancing solutions to end homelessness and
poverty for millions of children, women, and
men in America.
This year we are pleased to present the 2007
Stewart B. McKinney Award to Senator Jack
Reed for his long-time commitment and
advocacy on behalf of low-income and homeless
Americans. Because of his role in supporting
the McKinney-Vento Act, the 20th anniversary
year of that landmark legislation is an
especially appropriate time to recognize his
commitment to ending and preventing homelessness.
Etan Thomas, of the Washington
Wizards, and Judge Jay Zainey, U.S.
District Court Judge, will both receive the
2006 Bruce F. Vento Award. Mr. Thomas is a
relentless advocate for the rights of
homeless and low-income men, women, and
children and he also raised significant
resources for Hurricane Katrina relief.
Judge Zainey organized the Homeless
Experience Legal Protection (H.E.L.P)
Program, in which attorneys provide legal
consultation and notary services at homeless
centers in New Orleans. Plans are underway
to start H.E.L.P. programs throughout the
country, and to set up a national network
working with existing local programs, and
with the support of a new collaboration
between H.E.L.P. and NLCHP.
The 2006 Pro Bono Counsel Award goes to
Covington & Burling LLP because of the
firm's role in securing enactment of the
McKinney-Vento Act and for its two decades of
commitment to ending homelessness in the
here for more information.
||Nominate Someone for our 2007 Personal Achievement Award
Each year, NLCHP selects an individual who
has experienced homelessness to receive the
Personal Achievement Award to recognize his
or her accomplishments and service to those
still experiencing homelessness. This person
will be recognized for his or her personal
achievement as a formerly homeless person at
the 2007 McKinney-Vento Awards Dinner.
We would like your help in finding our
Personal Achievement Award winner this year.
Here are the criteria for the award:
- Encountered difficulties in obtaining
services or benefits that would allow him/her
to get an education, training, or pursue
other goals that would ultimately lead to
employment and/or stable housing. It can also
include efforts that helped his/her family be
more secure and stable, such as access to
childcare or education or services - that had
a significant effect on the family as a
- Overcame barriers to obtaining services
or benefits with the help of a local service
provider that, ideally, included guidance
- Has a success story to tell and is
willing to speak in front of an audience at
the McKinney-Vento event.
If you would like to nominate an individual
for the award, please e-mail Amy
Warnick detailing how they meet the above
||Thanks to Our LEAP Firms
LEAP is a national legal community
philanthropic effort to help homeless and
poor American achieve self-sufficiency. LEAP
members provide financial support and pro
bono legal services to help NLCHP prevent and
NLCHP would like to thank our current LEAP
Baker & Hostetler LLP; Fried, Frank, Harris,
Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Goodwin Procter LLP;
Hogan & Hartson LLP; Jenner & Block LLP;
Jones Day; King & Spalding LLP; Morrison &
Foerster Foundation; O'Melveny & Myers LLP;
Sidley Austin LLP; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP;
Visit our website at www.nlchp.org! Contact us at (202) 638-2535 or email us at
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