| From Maria's Desk |
So far, November has been full of important developments for the Law Center and the homeless and poor Americans for whom we advocate.
We expect the results of midterm elections earlier this month will have an impact on our advocacy. Much of the campaign rhetoric focused on cutting government spending, and in many cases that message seemed to carry the day. That means we'll have to work harder than ever to advocate for badly needed additional funding for housing and services for homeless people. But the Law Center is a non-partisan organization, and we've always worked hard to find allies, in both parties, to support our advocacy. For a longer take on the impact, see my recent blog posting.
Later in the month, we advocated for the human right to housing during the U.N.'s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in Geneva, where the U.S. was being reviewed, for the first time, for compliance with global human rights standards. We led a coalition of over 60 national and local groups that signed on to a report on housing and homelessness in the U.S., submitted as an official document in the UPR process, and presented testimony at the review itself. While we were disappointed in the official U.S. report submitted to the U.N. at the start of the process, we were heartened by the end of it. Following strong advocacy by the Law Center and others, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a statement indicating that it had heard our concerns: "The Universal Periodic Review process helps to inform and influence our nation's effort to dramatically increase the amount of affordable housing, especially for those struggling to find a place to call home." (Click here to read more.) Whether this sentiment will translate into policy and funds will depend on our ability to advocate vigorously.
That advocacy is critically needed now, as homelessness continues to increase dramatically and more and more Americans are at risk. A recent poll indicated that 53% of Americans are fearful that they will not be able to make their housing payment. As need and awareness grow, it is essential that we advocate vigorously and clearly to demand housing for all.
I hope you'll join us by supporting our work in whatever way you can.
|Support Funding for National Housing Trust Fund |
For more than a decade, the Law Center has been part of a national coalition supporting the creation of a National Housing Trust Fund to build new units of affordable housing in every state and territory. Legislation creating the Fund passed last year, but Congress still has not provided funding. In the remaining weeks of the current Congress, we have a chance to get that funding - $1 billion for construction of new housing, along with $65 million in Section 8 housing subsidies to ensure that rent in these units is affordable for the lowest income families, including families moving directly from homelessness.
We need your help to make this happen. Please call or email your senators TODAY to tell them to support the Job Creation and Tax Cuts Act of 2010 (S. 3793, a.k.a. the Baucus tax extenders bill). The House is prepared to pass the bill if the Senate acts first. And if this broader business tax legislation is passed, the Trust Fund will receive the critical funding needed to let community organizers from across the country start building new affordable housing. Note that this tax bill is not the more controversial legislation regarding extension of the 2001 tax cuts on personal income.
We suggest the following talking points:
Senate offices can be reached via the Capitol Switchboard at 1-800-460-0813. You can also find contact information for your Senator at www.senate.gov.
- Congress passed the National Housing Trust Fund bill in May of 2009, but it has yet to provide funding.
- Providing this funding would help community efforts to end homelessness.
- It would also create jobs in the construction industry, helping to boost economic recovery.
|Housing and the UN Human Rights Review |
On Friday, November 5, the United States underwent its first-ever Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. The UPR was a rigorous examination of U.S. human rights policy, and demonstrated that the U.S. has a long way to go to fulfill its human rights obligations.
The Law Center and other advocates fought to ensure that the right to housing was a key focus of the review. The Law Center coordinated a coalition of local and national housing organizations, which submitted testimony on America's affordable housing crisis and offered concrete recommendations for ending it.
But despite being faced with ample proof that its housing policies are inconsistent with international human rights standards, the U.S. delegation argued that economic and social rights are not enforceable in our legal system. Still, while the delegation evaded some crucial questions, its participation in the process is a step in the right direction, and the Law Center and its partners will hold the government accountable to the Human Rights Council's recommendations in the months and years to come.
To read more about the Universal Periodic Review:
1. Read the press release.
2. Read the daily blog entries.
3. View press coverage and learn more about the process on the Wiki.
|HUD's New Rule on Domestic Violence Protections |
Almost two years after the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and its advocacy partners filed comments in response to HUD's interim rule on housing protections in the Violence Against Women Act, the agency has issued a final rule that incorporates many of our recommendations.
The new rule was issued on October 27 as part of the White House's observation of Domestic Violence Awareness month.
The rule clarifies such matters as how to document the existence of domestic violence, how to address conflicting certifications of abuse, and how and when to determine whether accommodating a victim would present an "actual and imminent" threat to other tenants. It also obligates public housing agencies to waive limitations on voucher portability in cases of domestic violence, to ensure that victims retain housing assistance in the event of family break-up, and to amend leases to reflect these regulatory developments.
For additional information, see the text of the new rule and our summary of its provisions.
|HUD Releases Guidance for $1 Billion in NSP Grants |
On October 19, HUD published the official "Notice of Formula Allocations and Program Requirements" for the third round of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill of 2010 authorized an additional $1 billion in grants for NSP, which was established in 2008 to stabilize communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment in the wake of the housing downturn. These funds are primarily used to purchase foreclosed homes at a discount, and then redevelop them in order to arrest the problems associated with vacancy and declines in housing value.
All fifty states and dozens of local governments received NSP-3 grants ranging from just over $1 million to nearly $22 million in the case of the City of Detroit. As with prior rounds of NSP, 25% of this money must be used to house low-income people. However, the recent HUD notice outlines more specific opportunities for homeless and low-income individuals and their advocates. Perhaps most significantly, Dodd-Frank outlined a statutory preference for the development of affordable rental housing. While NSP-1 & 2 focused primarily on single family home ownership, NSP-3 acknowledges the dire shortage of affordable rental housing throughout the country. Many families at risk of homelessness are not in a position to purchase a home, and will benefit greatly from enhanced rental options.
In addition, the financial reform bill requires NSP-3 grantees to hire local residents or engage local small businesses whenever possible to perform the rehabilitation, development, and resale work associated with the grant-funded projects. By creating jobs, particularly for construction workers and contractors, NSP-3 will help to revive industries hit particularly hard by the economic crisis.
|Costume Party Benefits the Law Center |
Thank you to Tom Mullins and Christie Wasler for hosting their 11th annual United Nations Day costume party to benefit the Law Center! Tom is a legislative expert at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP who does pro bono work with us.
On October 16, 2010, Tom and Christie hosted family and friends -- dressed as a representative of their favorite country, ethnic heritage, or current political state - and encouraged them to think globally, but act locally. In the global spirit of the party, international cuisine, spirits, and fun were enjoyed by all. Acting locally, proceeds totaling over $1,300 benefited the Law Center. Thank you to all who attended and supported our work. Click here to see photos of the event.
As we enter winter and the holidays, please remember individuals and families experiencing homelessness that may not have a warm place to stay or hot food to enjoy. Consider hosting your holiday party to benefit the Law Center to help continue our work to end homelessness and protect the rights of people experiencing it. Alternatively, consider making a donation to the Law Center in lieu of holiday gifts, or the next time you stop in a coffee/tea shop for a hot drink, consider donating the amount you would spend each month on coffee/tea to the Law Center.
If you would be interested in hosting a party or luncheon to benefit the Law Center, please contact Whitney Gent at email@example.com.
|Pro Bono Corner: Goodwin Procter LLP |
Pro bono partners are key to the Law Center's success. In fact, the total pro bono hours donated by attorneys to the Law Center in 2009 exceeded 4,800 hours, at a value of over $2 million! As a way to say thank you, beginning this month, the Law Center will recognize one pro bono activity and/or pro bono partner in each issue of In Just Times. Our first spotlight is on Jean-Jacques Dupré and Goodwin Proctor LLP's work on behalf of Heart-N-Hand Ministries, Inc. in Belton, Missouri.
Since January 2009, Goodwin Proctor LLP and Mr. Dupré have assisted Heart-N-Hand Ministries as they navigate the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process to obtain office and organizational space to assist people experiencing homelessness in Missouri. Heart-N-Hand contacted the Law Center in search of assistance on how to proceed in the BRAC process. Almost two years later, Heart-N-Hand Ministries is close to signing an agreement with the Port Authority of Kansas City and will be taking over a 6,000 sq ft warehouse with offices.
As described by Executive Director Rick Dawson, Heart-N-Hand ministries reports:
[Mr. Dupré] has treated our case with extreme professionalism. His willingness to treat our case as if we were compensating him is incredible... He has communicated, executed and created our case with the utmost integrity. Thank you, National Law Center and THANK YOU, Jay. We could not have done this without either of you.
This warehouse will be a true asset in our ability to serve our poor and homeless in our area better. With the increase in job loss and economy in a crisis the need is overwhelming.
Thank you to Goodwin Proctor LLP and to Mr. Dupré for your commitment to pro bono service and to enriching the lives of individuals confronting homelessness in Belton, Missouri.
|Combined Federal Campaign |
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty is pleased to announce its participation in this year's combined federal campaign (CFC). CFC is the nation's largest workplace giving campaign. It makes charitable giving easy for federal employees and raises millions of dollars each year.
As you make your CFC giving decisions this year, please consider designating the Law Center. You can find us under "Homelessness and Poverty, National Law Center on" and our CFC code is 11947.
We invite you to connect with us in these social media spaces, and to share these stories and information with your friends. Especially during November and December, when people have a heightened awareness of social causes, please help us make homelessness a priority.
There are many ways to stay involved in our ongoing work to end homelessness in the United States.