Years of legislative advocacy finally
produced powerful, tangible results on January 8, 2002, when President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act. Buried in the pages of this long and intricate education law is a treasure for children and youth
experiencing homelessness: the
reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Act?s Education of Homeless Children and Youth Program. The new McKinney-Vento Act greatly strengthens the rights of children and youth in homeless situations to enroll and succeed in public schools. Its new provisions will take effect on July 1, 2002.
Educators and advocates worked together to draft the new McKinney-Vento Act and usher it through Congress. The Act mandates proven practices to ensure that children and youth in homeless situations have immediate access to public school, educational stability, and a full opportunity for academic success. These practices have been shown to improve student achievement and benefit school
districts with increased test scores. Many states and school districts are already working to revise their laws and policies to promote full implementation of the Act.
Here?s a sampling of the Act?s exciting new provisions, which apply to all school districts:
*A clear, comprehensive definition of who is considered homeless under the Act, which
includes children and youth who are sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing or
economic hardship, living in motels, hotels, campgrounds or shelters, or sleeping in cars, parks, bus/train stations or public places.
*Increased emphasis on educational
stability, requiring districts to keep students in their schools of origin the entire time they are homeless, unless parents or guardians choose to enroll their children in the local school, and requiring districts to enroll
students in their chosen school while any
disputes are resolved.
*A requirement that school districts provide transportation to permit students to remain at their schools of origin.
*A requirement that all school districts
appoint a staff person to ensure that children and youth in homeless situations are
identified and enrolled in school and receive all the services they need.
*Immediate enrollment provisions,
permitting students experiencing
homelessness to attend school immediately, even if they do not have normally required documents, and requiring schools to obtain records and assist with immunizations.
*A prohibition on segregating students
experiencing homelessness in separate schools, programs or settings.
To help states and school districts implement these new provisions, Congress appropriated a record high $50 million for the McKinney-Vento Act. Advocates around the country phoned, emailed and wrote their members of Congress to bring about this $15 million funding increase.
Our new website contains many documents to help service providers, educators, families, youth and advocates understand the
McKinney-Vento Act. Our 2002 rights
booklet, ?The Education of Children and Youth in Homeless Situations,? describes the new Act. Contact the Law Center to
receive a free copy of that guide. We also offer other publications, which are listed on our website.
For more information on the new McKinney-Vento Act or assistance with any issues regarding the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness, contact Patricia Julianelle at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 638-2535.
From the Desk of the Executive Director
Dear Friends of the Law Center:
Recent months have seen rapid increases in homelessness across the nation. The crisis is now reaching epidemic proportions, affecting virtually every community in the United States. Yet the resources are not there to meet even the barest survival needs of homeless Americans. According to a report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, in 2001 an average of 37% of requests for emergency shelter were turned away due to lack of resources. For families, that figure was a shocking 52%. These are the highest turn away figures by far in the past 16 years.
While the existing causes of homelessness?lack of affordable housing, low wages, lack of health care?continued their course, this year the economic downturn and the loss of jobs following the terrorist attacks resulted in
especially sharp increases in homelessness this year. The numbers are
stunning, and the impact on human lives is shameful and heartbreaking. While no one should have to be homeless in a country as rich as ours, the
increase in the numbers of homeless children and families also challenges widely held myths about homelessness.
The Law Center?s legal programs focus on breaking down the barriers that keep people in homelessness and opening access to supports that can help people out of homelessness. By using the power of the law, we realize
practical results that make a concrete difference in thousands of peoples? lives?while also advancing a vision for a more just society that we can all embrace.
As you?ll read in this issue of In Just Times, the Law Center has realized many successes in recent months. Among these are: the enactment of new law strengthening of homeless children?s rights to education and school
programs, and an increase in funding of over 40% for the McKinney
Education of Homeless Children and Youth Program; the adoption by House and Senate committees of reports outlining barriers that disabled homeless people face in obtaining disability benefits from the Social Security
Administration?and urging the Administration to develop a plan detailing solutions for providing services to homeless people; and our release of a
major new national report on the criminalization of homelessness ? along with recommendations for constructive alternatives.
With your involvement and support, we can help empower homeless children, families and individuals to move back to self-sufficiency. We can also build broader support for solutions to homelessness by educating and reaching out to our communities?including local government officials, business owners, homeless persons, advocates, and residents. Other opportunities where your support and involvement can make a difference include volunteering with Law Center programs. Our organization relies on YOU for its care,
nurturing, and financial support.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty is in a unique
leadership role to provide invaluable service to shelter providers, educators, and policy makers through a national network that makes more information available and response to requests for assistance easier. Please visit our
website at www.nlchp.org for more information.
Civil Rights Project Update
Civil Rights Project Releases the 2002 Criminalization Report: Illegal to be Homeless
This Winter, the Law Center?s Civil Rights Project was hard at work finalizing its 2002 criminalization report, ?Illegal to be Homeless,? done in collaboration with the National
Coalition for the Homeless. When the word ?criminalization? is used, we are talking about the practices of local jurisdictions in selectively enforcing legislation against basic life-sustaining activities such as sleeping, sitting, or storing
personal belongings in places where people are forced to
exist without housing.
?Illegal to be Homeless? is a tool that we hope to use in educating local governments, advocates, and residents on
nationwide approaches to the issue of criminalization. In
particular, we hope that this report will be a resource for all in developing community strategies that do not penalize those experiencing homelessness for their lack of housing, but rather, seek out long-term solutions including affordable
housing, healthcare, and living-wage jobs.
The report documents laws across the nation that criminalize homelessness, presents narratives from advocates that are on the front-lines of criminalization, tells of successful
constructive alternatives, and gives summaries of litigation regarding criminalization. Although this is our sixth report on criminalization, it is the first done in collaboration with the National Coalition for the Homeless. Since our press
conference on January 15, interviews and articles surrounding the report have appeared in numerous media outlets, including CBS Radio and The New York Times. The report is available for purchase through the Law Center and can be downloaded for free from our web site: www.nlchp.org.
The Project has also continued its other activities, including technical assistance, national monitoring, and advocacy
promoting constructive alternatives to criminalization.
Recently, the Project assisted a local advocate with presenting information on the legal rights of homeless persons facing eviction from campsites, met with the D.C. Downtown BID Association to continue dialogue with community
residents, and traveled to Philadelphia to learn more about efforts community leaders have made to seek out solutions to criminalization. In addition, we were instrumental in
ensuring that a Louisiana shelter provider got connected with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to file a Fair Housing Complaint after our efforts to prevent a cancellation of a HUD grant by a county were met with resistance. Finally, the Civil Rights Project was happy to find out that its joint proposal with the ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty for a training on innovative approaches to combating criminalization was accepted by the Equal Justice Conference scheduled for April 18-20 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Project will continue all these efforts throughout the Spring.
Contact Pallavi Rai with questions at 202-638-2535. To purchase the report?visit us online at www.nlchp.org
Income Project Update
Income Project Works on Federal, State Levels to Minimize
Barriers Homeless Face When Seeking Public Benefits
The Income Project is working, through several channels, to increase access to public benefits for homeless people. First, the Project recently asked the Senate Appropriations
Committee to appropriate funds for a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) outreach and application assistance program. If funded, the program would be run by either the Social
Security Administration or the Department of Health and Human Services. It would provide grants to local non-profits that provide medical and psychiatric treatment to homeless people. The grants would allow those non-profits to hire staff who could assist homeless people in applying for SSI and documenting their benefit claims.
The Project is also involved in the ongoing debate over
welfare?Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
(TANF)?reauthorization. Project staff believes that TANF should be a homelessness prevention program, and that homelessness should be an unacceptable outcome for any family receiving TANF. Specifically, the Project is focusing on three areas: 1) ensuring that state TANF programs give out additional housing assistance; 2) requiring state TANF programs to provide better services to TANF recipients with disabilities (including SSI application assistance); and 3) mandating that public benefits such as SSI, food stamps, TANF, and Medicaid be restored to all legal immigrants. In addition, the Project is preparing a report which will evaluate ?best practices? in preventing homelessness and/or serving homeless families, through state TANF programs.
The Project will also propose legislative changes to ensure that homeless persons have an easier time applying for public benefits. We will be seeking to have these changes
introduced as part of the reauthorization of the HUD-McKinney housing programs, or as part of other legislation considered this year.
Project staff is also working closely with Federal agencies. We expect to meet with the new Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, within the next several months. We also anticipate an offer to provide technical assistance at an April ?policy academy? run by the Department of Health and Human Services. At the policy academy, teams of high level state officials will meet to develop strategies for providing assistance to homeless people under mainstream public
benefits programs. Project staff will provide suggestions to state officials on how to best accomplish this goal.
Contact Jeremy Rosen with questions at 202.638.2535, ext. 207, or email at email@example.com.
DC Homelessness Project Update
Earned Income Tax Credit Clinics Help Homeless Workers
This Spring, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty will be helping qualified homeless workers in the District of Columbia to get money they are owed from the federal government. Homeless persons who have earned wages in a given year may be eligible to receive the Earned Income Credit, a refundable tax credit for low-income
The Earned Income Credit provides money back to low-income persons who have worked for paid wages within a given tax year. Single individuals who earned less than $10,700 may be eligible to receive as much as $364 from the credit; families earning less than $28,281 with one dependent child may be eligible to receive up to $2428; and families who earned less than $32,121 and have two dependent children may receive up to $4,008.
A national study found that 49% of the homeless population has worked within a given month. But many homeless persons who qualify for the credit may not be aware of it or know how to get it.
In order to help eligible homeless workers in the District of Columbia to obtain the credit, the Law Center is conducting outreach to inform them about the credit, disseminating written information and giving talks at facilities that serve homeless persons. Additionally, the Law Center will be providing a series of free tax preparation assistance clinics at homeless shelters and other service agencies in DC. By bringing the clinics to the facilities where homeless persons live, the Law Center seeks to help more eligible persons to get the benefits for which they qualify.
The Law Center is still recruiting volunteers to assist with the project. If you are a Certified Public Accountant who is knowledgeable about the Earned Income Credit and would like to help homeless persons file their taxes and apply for the credit, please contact Laurel Weir at the National Law Center at 202-638-2535 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VOLUNTEER WITH US!
Law Center Volunteers Support Education Project
The Education Project is very fortunate to have two highly qualified volunteers on its staff. Brian Raimondo, a graduate of Georgetown University, and Maureen Rodgers, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, volunteer with the project twice each week. Both Brian and Maureen have a long history of volunteer work on the issue of homelessness,
including working at shelters and participating in the annual Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Walkathon. They are
paralegal specialists at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Currently, Maureen and Brian are surveying service providers in San Diego, CA, to determine the needs of children and youth in homeless situations there. They and the project attorney will use the results of the survey to shape the Law Center?s efforts to ensure educational access and success for homeless students in southern California.
Brian and Maureen are essential members of the Law Center team, and we thank them for their generosity and
Be a friend of NLCHP! Come join us and our much appreciated
volunteers. Each year NLCHP relies on people just like you to
help us as we serve as the legal arm of the national movement
to alleviate, ameliorate and end homelessness. There are many ways
for you to volunteer your help, time and talents.
The Law Center accepts volunteers on an as-need, rolling basis. To be considered for Law Center volunteer
opportunities, please visit our web site (www.nlchp.org), download and print the volunteer application form.
Provide the requested information and mail it to the attention of Development/Volunteers, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 1411 K Street, NW, Suite 1400, Washington, DC, 20005.
If would like additional information on any current volunteer opportunities available, please contact the Law
Center at 202-638-2535, ext. 200 or email at: email@example.com.
NLCHP Launches New, Improved Web Site:
National Membership Network In Formation
The Law Center launched its newly upgraded web site on February 14, 2002. We are excited about this new opportunity for the legal community, service and shelter providers, educators, activists and communities at-large to be able to interact with Law Center project attorneys and each other.
In launching our improved site, we are presenting the opportunity for others to join us and be a part of a national membership network of professionals devoted to the future of NLCHP and those experiencing homelessness and poverty. We are providing a forum in which an individual, law firm or corporation can participate in and learn more about the Law Center?s work.
Members of NLCHP?s national network enjoy reduced rates on tickets to the Law Center?s training sessions on issues pertaining to the rights of the homeless. They also receive a year of unrestricted
access to NLCHP?s new site, which provides easy-to-download electronic copies of all our publications and various legal and legislative materials. For more details on the benefits of Law Center
membership, please visit our site (www.nlchp.org) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the Law Center, we work for long-term constructive solutions to homelessness and poverty. We are committed to solutions that address the underlying causes of homelessness, not just the symptoms.
Some NLCHP members take on active roles, serve as cooperating counsel on NLCHP cases, serve on the Board of Directors, become active in their states, and network with other national affiliations
committed to our mission to one day end homelessness. Support from our members makes a difference in the lives of many homeless children and families.
You can join the Law Center?s national network by enrolling online or via mail. To request a
membership application packet via mail, please contact us at 202.638.2535, ext. 200 or email:
Much Thanks to Law Center Supporters!
Where would we be without the ongoing and enthusiastic support of the foundations, local law firms, corporations and individuals who contribute to our mission to alleviate, ameliorate and end homelessness? Starting with this issue of In Just Times, we will feature some of the foundations and law firms who help sustain our efforts into 2002 for the Law Center?s Housing, Education, Public Benefits and Civil Rights projects. The Law Center is able to sustain and advance its legal advocacy work thanks to the support and generosity of these entities. We deeply appreciate and thank all NLCHP supporters including:
An Anonymous Donor supports the Children's Education Project for developing and strengthening a legal services network focused on enforcing the right of homeless
children to public, non-segregated education.
W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports the
Children's Education Project, which increases the number of homeless children attending school regularly and ensures the
education and enforcement of their legal rights.
John Grisham's Oakwood Foundation supports the Civil Rights Project, which advocates
nationally against laws that "criminalize" homeless by making it a crime to perform life-sustaining activities in public.
Butler Family Fund supports the Housing Project, which increases the resources available to homeless people by helping grassroots homeless groups acquire unused federal and state properties.
Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen
Foundation supports the DC Homelessness Project, which removes barriers homeless DC residents face in attempt to access services and educates homeless on their right to the Earned Income Credit (EIC).
Nathan Cummings Foundation
supports the Social Security Benefits Project, which
removes barriers to SSI benefits for homeless people who are disabled, helping them to receive Medicaid, needed health care, and stable housing.
The funding received from National Association for Public Interest Law (NAPIL)
supports the Social Security Income Project under the direction of a NAPIL Fellow with purpose to increase the eligible homeless people with mental disabilities who receive SSI disability benefits and other public benefits - and expand the pool and access to affordable housing available to homeless persons with disabilities. Washington, DC law firms
contributing matching funds to support a NAPIL fellowship for two years are:
Hogan & Hartson
Sullivan & Cromwell
The work we have been able to do over the last twelve years has made a vital difference in the lives of homeless men, women and children across America. This work is only made possible through the generosity of friends like you.
There are many opportunities to invest in the future with us to help the nation?s homeless realize self-sufficiency. Please visit the Law Center online at www.nlchp.org and get a better understanding of our projects. If you?d like to inquire about supporting a project area that interests you most, please contact our Development Director at (202) 638-2535 for more details.
Thank you for your support and interest!
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