NLCHP News: Voter Disenfranchisement, Students with Disabilities, and A Visit from the U.N.
||A publication of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
|Lawyers Working to End Homelessness
||Vol. 7, No. 5
||From Maria's Desk
As the country gears up for elections this
November, advocates are focusing on
strategies to bring attention to homelessness
and poverty in national, state and local
National advocates have come together to
draft a consensus statement on five
fundamentals to end and prevent homelessness.
Aimed at the next national administration, as
well as Congress, the statement describes the
current dimensions of the national crisis of
homelessness. It outlines the five
fundamentals that must be addressed to end
and prevent it:
- All of the McKinney-Vento programs must
be reauthorized and strengthened.
- The supply of affordable housing must be
- Health care, education, and social
services must be provided to all who need
- Personal incomes must be sufficient to
pay for the necessities of life.
- Discrimination against homeless persons
must be prevented.
Perhaps most important, the statement
emphasizes that "a renewed, concerted effort
to eradicate mass homelessness is required by
our commitment to basic human rights and by
our responsibilities to our neighbors."
read the full statement, click here.
To endorse it, click here.
||Supreme Court Decision Could Disenfranchise Many Homeless Voters
On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a
ruling in William Crawford et al. v. Marion
County Election Board et al., and Indiana
Democratic Party et al. v. Todd Rokita,
Indiana Secretary of State et al. that could
severely burden homeless persons' right to vote.
The ruling upheld Indiana's requirement that
voters present a government-issued photo ID
in order to vote. This requirement is
particularly burdensome for homeless persons,
who frequently have difficulty maintaining
and obtaining identification cards. Although
the law allows an indigent person to vote
without an ID, those individuals must follow
up voting on Election Day with a trip to the
county seat in order for their vote to be
Along with six other national homeless
advocacy groups, NLCHP filed an amicus
in support of the Petitioners arguing that
Indiana's photo identification requirement
imposes a substantial and unnecessary burden
on homeless people's right to vote.
learn more about homeless voting rights,
read the full Supreme Court opinion, click
NLCHP would like to thank the Herb Block
Foundation for its support of our programs.
||Domestic Violence in the Native Communities
This month, NLCHP Domestic Violence staff
attorney Kathy Zeisel participated in the
Native American Indian Housing Council's
(NAIHC) annual conference and trade show in
Seattle. NAIHC had invited NLCHP to discuss
policies and best practices to address the
incidence of domestic violence in the
American Indian community and its relation to
The American Indian community experiences the
highest rates of domestic violence among any
distinct ethnic community in the United
States. According the CDC, almost 40% of
Native women and 12% of Native men experience
physical or sexual assault by an intimate
In addition to significant cultural
challenges to combating the problem, there
are legal obstacles when the violence occurs
on tribal lands. The Department of Justice
estimates that 75% of sexual assaults against
Native women on tribal lands are perpetrated
by non-Native men who are not subject to the
jurisdiction of the tribe. As a result,
complicated partnerships with the US
Attorneys' offices are required to prosecute
There are very few domestic violence shelters
for victims who are part of the American
Indian community, and so victims who want to
remain within their culture are often faced
with few options to escape the violence. At
the NAIHC conference, NLCHP presented to
tribal leaders and housing authority
officials about this problem and discussed
best practices to form policies to address
these issues. The presentation is available
NLCHP looks forward to working with the NAIHC
and other groups to develop policy to protect
the housing rights and ensure safe and
affordable housing for victims of domestic
violence in the American Indian community.
NLCHP would like to thank the Waitt Family
Foundation and the Freddie Mac Foundation for
their support of our Domestic Violence
||New Guidance for Homeless Students with Disabilities
In April, the Office of Special Education and
Rehabilitative Services of the U.S.
Department of Education issued a Question
and Answer document for guidance on
implementing the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in
conjunction with the McKinney-Vento Homeless
Assistance Act to serve homeless children
This document included significant language
suggested by NLCHP and its partners, the
National Association for the Education of
Homeless Children & Youth and the National
Center on Homeless Education.
The guidance provides questions and answers
relating to homeless children and the general
requirements to educate children with
disabilities, the "child find" requirements
of IDEA, evaluations for special education
services, eligibility and individual
education plans, schools of origin for
homeless students, unaccompanied youth and
surrogate parents, early intervention
services for infants and toddlers, and
coordination between McKinney-Vento and
special education services.
NLCHP and its partners are continuing to work
with the Department to ensure that all
students receive the services to which they
are entitled. Groups interested in
collaborating on comments should contact
NLCHP Children & Youth attorney Eric Tars,
or can send comments directly to
OSERSguidancecomments@ed.gov (put the word
"Homelessness" in the subject line of your
NLCHP thanks the Freddie Mac Foundation
for support of its Children & Youth Program.
||U.N. Official meets with NLCHP and allies
This article was written by Caitlin
Egleson, who just completed her internship
with NLCHP. Thank you Caitlin for all of your
work with us!
This spring, NLCHP
worked with advocates
nationwide to coordinate a visit from the UN
Special Rapporteur on Racism, Mr. Doudou
Diene. Mr. Diene was invited by the US
government to visit eight cities and meet
with governmental officials. NLCHP has been
part of coordinated effort to make sure he
also hears from community organizations and
advocates in each city.
I attend Northeastern University School of
Law, which is unique among law programs in
its emphasis on experiential learning. For
this semester, I have had the pleasure of
interning as a Human Rights Fellow at NLCHP.
One of my final tasks with NLCHP was to help
plan a meeting between Mr. Diene and national
homelessness and housing advocates in
Washington, DC. I cannot imagine a more
appropriate way to end my fellowship here.
The opportunity to sit around a table with
the leaders of national advocates discussing
the consequences of racism in our society
reflected both the amount I have learned and
the possibility that this kind of work affords.
NLCHP coordinated a dinner meeting with the
Special Rapporteur and advocates from the
National Fair Housing Association (NFHA); the
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
(PRRAC); the Lawyers' Committee for Civil
Rights Under Law; the National Coalition for the
Homeless (NCH); and the National Alliance to
End Homelessness (NAEH).
NLCHP human rights attorney Eric Tars linked
presentations by NFHA, NAEH, and
NCH to the concerns of local partners who
will meet with Mr. Diene in each city, for
example relating housing discrimination to
that faced by victims of Hurricane Katrina,
the lack of affordable housing and
gentrification in Chicago, violence against
homeless persons in Miami, and
criminalization of homelessness in
Minneapolis and Los Angeles.
NLCHP executive director Maria Foscarinis
also urged Mr. Diene to take note of the
increasing gap between the rich and poor
throughout the country and its racial
breakdown. Kathy Zeisel connected gender,
housing, and racism, discussing how the lack
of emergency shelters and the discrimination
people of color face when seeking new housing
often forces survivors to make a choice
between being homeless or staying in an
This final experience was a chance for me to
see how my work over the past three months -
understanding the international human rights
framework, community activism and outreach,
domestic law and policy, and above all
collaboration - connects and is put into
NLCHP would like to thank the Butler
Family Foundation and the U.S. Human Rights
Network for their support of our Human Rights
Program and Northeastern Law School's Program
on Human Rights and the Global Economy for
making us part of their fellowship program.
||NLCHP Welcomes New LEAP Member!
NLCHP is pleased to add Katten
Muchin Rosenman LLP to the Lawyers'
Advisory Partners (LEAP) community. Katten
joined LEAP in April 2008 and LEAP
representative Bruce Casino serves as a
member of the NLCHP Board of Directors.
Katten has a long-standing commitment to
helping the poor, the powerless and the
disenfranchised obtain first-rate
representation without charge.
The firm's pro bono work includes assisting a
non-profit development corporation in
developing affordable housing opportunities
in Washington, DC. Katten's program has been
honored by the American Bar Association
Section of Business Law with its National
Public Service Award, as well as by the
Mexican American Legal Defense and
Educational Fund in Chicago, the Lawyers
Alliance for New York, the United States
District Court for the Northern District of
Illinois and numerous other groups.
NLCHP is a 501(c)(3) organization. Visit our website at www.nlchp.org! Contact us at (202) 638-2535 or email us at