NLCHP News - January 2008
||A publication of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
|Lawyers Working to End Homelessness
||Vol. 7, No. 1
||From Maria's Desk
The new year starts with new opportunities,
new challenges -- and unfinished work.
In 2007, Congress came close to reauthorizing
the 20-year-old McKinney-Vento Homeless
Assistance Act and significantly increasing
its funding and legal protections for
homeless people. In pushing for this,
advocates came closer to a common position.
Now we all need to work
together to get the job done. Please
contact your member of Congress now --
tell them how critical federal resources are
to your community! Your call
really makes a difference.
We must also initiate new work. Groups from
across the country are calling our offices
seeking help to address the most basic needs.
Children kept out of school.
"Not-in-my-backyard" opposition to housing
and services. Laws punishing homeless people
for living in public places -- when there is
nowhere else to go. Homeless people unable to
prove their identity -- and therefore unable to
get the aid they need and to which they are
entitled. Domestic violence survivors losing
their homes through no fault of their own.
We have victories to build on, in the courts
and Congress, to address these needs, and
that's what we intend to do in this new year.
In 2008, we'll work to make sure that homeless
children can go to school and preschool -- to
get the skills they need to have a chance to
succeed. We'll work to enforce our victories
on behalf of domestic violence survivors -- so
that they can find and maintain housing and
avoid homelessness. We'll advocate for the
homeless people to vote in this election
year -- and to remove the ID barriers to this
and other key rights and benefits. We'll help
providers across the country get and use free
vacant federal properties, so that these
public resources can be used for housing and
other public needs. We'll fight NIMBY and
criminalization, and work for housing and
services instead. And we'll press our case
before international fora to hold the U.S.
Just before the holidays, I had an interview
with an international TV program. The host
said that people in other countries have a
difficult time understanding how there can be
homelessness in a rich and powerful country
like the U.S. -- and she asked me to explain
this to her audience.
I could only say that it's a matter of
national priorities -- and political strength.
Homelessness is not a mystery. It's not like
a disease that we don't know how to cure.
Homelessness is solvable and the solutions
are evident in programs across the
country -- programs that house people and help
them become self-sufficient. But these
programs are not nearly large enough. They
simply don't have the resources.
||Legislative Victory: First of Ten Steps
Enacted to Prevent and End Homelessness
This past summer, NLCHP, the National
Coalition for Homeless Veterans, and a broad
coalition of homeless advocates, faith-based
groups, and anti-poverty advocates called on
Congress to take Ten Steps
to Prevent and End Homelessness Now.
In December, President Bush signed into law a
funding bill to carry out one of the Ten
Steps. The Step called upon Congress and the
President to provide funding for at least
5,000 new housing vouchers for homeless
veterans with mental health or substance
abuse disorders. The Fiscal Year 2008
appropriations bill provided $75 million in
new funds for this program -- enough to
7,500-10,000 new housing vouchers.
The housing vouchers will be distributed
through the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development - U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
Under this program, created by HUD and the VA
in 1992, Public Housing Authorities apply for
vouchers to distribute to homeless veterans
in their area. Local VA facilities then
recommend individual veterans for these
vouchers and provide supportive services to
those who receive housing under the program.
For the past several years, there had been no
new funding for this program, even though a
2003 study found that there were better
outcomes for homeless veterans in the
HUD-VASH program than for those who received
either case management services or standard
VA services alone. President Bush did not
ask for funds for this program in his FY08
request, so the new funding represents a
significant victory for homeless advocates.
The VA and HUD are working to develop
guidelines for distribution of the new
vouchers. NLCHP will post information on the
funding guidelines when they become
||2008 Appropriations Finalized
After vetoing several earlier appropriations
bills, President Bush signed the Fiscal Year
(FY) 2008 appropriations into law in late
December. The final bill represented a
compromise with Congress. It provided an
overall funding level within the President's
request, but shifted some funds away from
Administration priorities into domestic
needs, ensuring level funding or small
increases for most homeless assistance programs.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
programs administered by HUD received the
largest increase--$144 million above FY07
levels, bringing the FY08 appropriation up to
$1.586 billion, including:
- $25 million set aside for a
program to provide rapid re-housing for
- $64.07 million for the
Education for Homeless Children and Youth
program, up $2.2 million over FY07 levels;
- an increase of $8.3 million above FY07
levels for the Runaway and Homeless Youth
McKinney-Vento programs administered by HHS
did not fare as well. While Health Care for
the Homeless programs received $177.59
million, up $6.62 million from FY07 levels,
funding for the Projects to Aid in the
Transition from Homelessness was cut $948,000
below FY07 levels, a reduction that will be
further amplified by inflation.
Homeless veterans' programs fared better than
in past years, including $75 million
allocated for the HUD-VASH program to provide
7,500-10,000 new housing vouchers for
homeless veterans with mental health and
substance abuse disorders.
NLCHP will be advocating for increased
funding for all McKinney-Vento programs for
Fiscal Year 2009. If you would like to help
NLCHP advocate, please contact Laurel Weir
to be added to NLCHP's legislative alerts list.
||NLCHP Spotlight: Housing Crisis in New Orleans
At NLCHP's National Forum on the Human Right
to Housing in November, New Orleans
participants called for national solidarity
around their housing crisis. Heeding that
call, NLCHP has since brought national and
international attention to this crisis.
- On Christmas Day, The Washington Post
published a Letter
to the Editor from NLCHP condemning the
Post's endorsement of the destruction of New
Orleans public housing and advocating
policies that would respect the human dignity
of former residents.
- On January 14, NLCHP met with Walter
Kälin, the Representative
of the United Nations Secretary-General on
Internally Displaced Persons. His visit
to the U.S. was timed with the release of the
Institute for Southern Studies' new study,
which uses international human rights
standards to examine the government's
response to those displaced by Hurricane
Katrina. The meeting included several groups
new to the housing-rights movement, many of
whom are now working with NLCHP on future
NLCHP will continue to advocate for policy
changes that reflect the human rights of
internally displaced persons from New
Orleans, and to promote durable solutions to
the housing crisis there and across the country.
NLCHP thanks the US Human Rights Fund and the
Butler Family Foundation for support of its
Human Rights Program.
||Domestic Violence Closely Linked to Homelessness
As we begin 2008, it is important to
recognize how much there still is to be done
to provide victims of domestic violence with
safe and affordable housing. The 2007 Report
on Hunger and Homelessness from the U.S.
Conference of Mayors listed domestic
violence as one of the top three reasons that
families become homeless, and 43% of cities
surveyed reported an increase in the number
of families with children seeking emergency
and transitional shelter services.
Victims of domestic violence have many
obstacles to obtaining safe housing, which
may include safety concerns, mental health
issues, unfavorable employment or rental
histories, a lack of credit and immigration
and language concerns. As a result, many
women and children move into the shelter
system or into crowded, often illegal,
situations with family or friends.
NLCHP provides technical assistance,
trainings and publications on a range of
housing issues affecting victims of domestic
violence. NLCHP is also available to
co-counsel cases that will have a significant
impact on the movement to improve housing for
victims of domestic violence.
In 2008, NLCHP will be conducting trainings
on federal housing laws for judges,
attorneys, advocates, public housing
authorities and landlords across the country.
NLCHP is also developing curriculums on
cross-training domestic violence and housing
attorneys and advocates for use by local
For more information on the Domestic Violence
program or upcoming trainings, please contact
NLCHP's Domestic Violence Staff Attorney,
Kathy Zeisel, at 202-638-2535 or
NLCHP thanks the Waitt Foundation for its
support of the Domestic Violence Program.
||2007: Achieving Significant Victories in Difficult Times
Recent disasters like Hurricane Katrina and
the California fires, as well as the current
crisis of mortgage foreclosures, have only
magnified the problem of homelessness in
America. And yet, NLCHP and its allies across
the U.S. continue to achieve significant
gains in the struggle to work for a future
without homelessness and to meet the
immediate needs of individuals and families
who are increasingly invisible in our society.
In 2007, NLCHP successfully challenged laws
criminalizing homelessness, won court
victories to help those affected by the Gulf
Coast Hurricanes, won new protections for
domestic violence survivors in the nation's
capital, improved access to Head Start
programs for homeless children, and organized
trainings to build support for a human right
to housing here in the United States.
Visit our website at www.nlchp.org! Contact us at (202) 638-2535 or email us at
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