|From Maria's Desk
Watching President Obama's speech last week, I felt hope. He spoke to the pain that so many Americans are feeling. He spoke to issues like great schools for all children, help for veterans, jobs for the long-term unemployed. He spoke to the fundamental social compact that says we are all connected.
But there was also a gaping hole. It's not just that he never mentioned the word homelessness -- even though family homelessness rose 20% from 2007 to 2010, and the data just released by the Census Bureau shows that poverty rose to 15.1% in 2010, the highest since 1993. He also barely talked about housing -- even though without a stable home, accessing schools and jobs is challenging and success is all but impossible.
However, one significant mention in the speech, and in the plan, was $15 billion proposed for uses that would include employing people to rehab foreclosed and abandoned properties. That's a promising step, especially if it includes targeted help to homeless and extremely low-income people. As details are fleshed out, that's something we'll be focusing on. The official White House overview of the plan is available here.
Meanwhile, we'll also continue fighting the Obama Administration in court as it tries to undo a crucial court order to enforce a program to use vacant federal properties to help homeless people - on a parallel track with our fight to stop efforts to repeal the law legislatively.
Will the hopeful feeling last? Stay tuned. The struggle continues.
|Please Join Us: 13th Annual McKinney-Vento Awards! |
The Law Center's 13th annual McKinney-Vento Awards will be held Sept. 21, at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The event will recognize the leadership of the U.S. Human Rights Fund, Rep. Barney Frank, DLA Piper, and Rob Robinson in the battle to end homelessness. Each of these honorees has been a vital partner in the Law Center's advocacy efforts. The U.S. Human Rights Fund will receive the Stewart B. McKinney Award, Rep. Frank will receive the Bruce F. Vento Award, DLA Piper will receive the Pro Bono Counsel Award, and Robinson will receive the Personal Achievement Award. Due to a change in Secretary Solis's schedule, Dr. William E. Spriggs, assistant secretary for policy, U.S. Department of Labor, will present the evening's keynote address.
The reception will begin at 6 p.m., with dinner to follow.
Sponsorship of this event helps support the national legal effort to prevent and end homelessness. Tickets are $225 per person, with a special non-profit rate of $50 per person. For sponsorship opportunities or to purchase tickets, please click here or contact Whitney Gent at email@example.com or (202) 638-2535 ext. 204.
To learn more about the event and honorees, click here.
Event Host Committee
Paul Carothers - Yum! Brands; John Courembis - Courembis Companies; Sheila Crowley - National Low Income Housing Coalition; Angie Garcia Lathrop - Bank of America; Moises Loza - Housing Assistance Council; Nancy Prager - Prager Law; Bruce Rosenblum - The Carlyle Group; Lola Ladeinde Temple - DLA Piper; Barry Zigas- Zigas & Associates
Major Sponsors to Date
Courembis Commercial Real Estate Services & Courembis Law PLLC; Roderick & Ann Marie DeArment; DLA Piper; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver, & Jacobson LLP; Hogan Lovells; Mark G. Anderson Consulting; Microsoft; National Association of Realtors; Private Equity Growth Capital Council; Bruce & Lori Laitman Rosenblum; Sidley Austin LLP; Jeff & Kendra Simes; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; Yum! Brands
|Webinar: Housing v. Transportation Costs for Homeless Kids
On Tuesday, September 27, at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PDT), the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty will host a webinar exploring topics addressed in its upcoming white paper "Beds Not Buses: Housing v. Transportation for Homeless Students."
When a child faces homelessness, her education and development, physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships, and resilience and resistance against risky activities all suffer. In 2001, Congress passed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, which requires school districts to keep homeless students in their schools of origin if doing so furthers their best interests. The district must also provide transportation to that school. Evidence shows that McKinney-Vento policies have helped reduce and reverse the effects of homelessness by providing a stable school setting for homeless students to learn, socialize, and grow. However, the available data also indicates that the costs to transport homeless students are very high.
"Beds Not Buses," a white paper developed in collaboration with Columbia Legal Services, demonstrates that affordable housing is an alternative solution that can and should replace reliance on McKinney-Vento transportation policies, and at a lower expense. This webinar will outline the paper's findings and advance possible strategies for achieving this goal.
Eric Tars - Human Rights Director/Children & Youth Attorney, NLCHP
Casey Trupin & Erin Shea McCann - Staff Attorneys, Columbia Legal Services
To register for the webinar, click here .
Contact Whitney Gent at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-638-2535, ext. 204 with questions.
|New Voting Laws: Barriers to the Ballot?
On September 8, the Law Center submitted written testimony for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The hearing addressed the impact of new state voter laws on the ability of low income people to both register to vote and cast ballots. The Law Center's statement expressed a concern that these new laws will disproportionately impact homeless persons.
The Law Center's testimony focused on four types of laws - those that require photo IDs
at the polls, add new voter registration restrictions, shorten early voting, and
disenfranchise ex-felons. We are particularly concerned with voter ID laws. Such laws existed in nine states before 2011. This year, seven states passed new voter ID laws, and 27 more states are considering them.
People who are homeless often do not have photo ID. For some obtaining one is cost prohibitive. While the new laws do provide for free IDs that can be used for voting (to avoid being characterized as poll taxes), homeless people seeking even a free ID must verify residency and pay for birth certificates and other documents needed to determine identity. In addition, people who are homeless and have ID often lose it as a result of arrests, police sweeps, or other harassment by law enforcement.
As we move towards the 2012 election, the Law Center will be working to ensure that every eligible low income or homeless voter is able to cast their ballot. To this end we plan to issue a report, work with our partner civil rights groups, and consider potential legal challenges to laws that may violate either the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.
Watch the full hearing here.
|Walter Reed Property Available for Homeless Services
The Government of the District of Columbia has announced that five additional acres on the site of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center are available for use by homeless service providers at no cost. State and local government agencies, homeless service providers and other interested parties have until 3 p.m. EST on November 18, 2011 to submit proposals for use of the property to the city.
Last fall, the city crafted a draft plan for reintegrating the 60-acre site into the community. Three groups -- So Others Might Eat, the Transitional Housing Corporation, and Help USA -- were awarded property for permanent supportive housing development and administrative space.
Another federal agency has now released five acres of property adjacent to the original parcel. Notices of Interest for homeless assistance may be submitted by any state or local government agency or private nonprofit organization that provides or proposes to provide services to homeless persons or families residing in the District of Columbia. The city will hold a public workshop and tour of the installation on September 28, 2011 at 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20307.
To register for the workshop, providers can e-mail email@example.com or visit www.walterreedlra.dc.gov. For information about the base closure process or a copy of the Law Center toolkit on using base property for homeless providers, contact Housing Attorney Geraldine Doetzer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 638-2535.
|Cruel & Unusual Punishment for Homeless People |
Failure to provide homeless people with access to water and sanitary facilities "could...amount to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment," according to the official report of Catarina de Albuquerque, UN special rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation. Released last month, de Albuquerque's report to the UN Human Rights Council came in response to her visit to the U.S. in February and March.
During her visit, de Albuquerque was shocked at the great lengths homeless people needed to go to just to access water or use the bathroom. The Law Center submitted testimony to the rapporteur and connected her with our partners in Sacramento, where, in the Safe Ground tent community, she met Tim, the community's "sanitation technician." Tim would haul bags of waste, sometimes weighing up to over 200 lbs., many miles by bicycle to a public restroom just to be able to dispose of it safely.
De Albuquerque's report is one of many recent international condemnations of criminalizing and mistreating homeless persons in the U.S. "This adds to a growing record of both domestic and international law stating that homeless persons cannot be criminalized for basic life-sustaining acts when the community provides no legal alternative," said the Law Center's human rights program director, Eric Tars. "But ultimately, we must remedy this situation because we, as Americans, believe that no person deserves to be treated this way."
Click here to read more about the special rapporteur's visit.
|Rhode Island Homeless Family's Rights Upheld
Following a series of appeals, the Rhode Island Department of Education has issued a decision upholding the rights of a family in the Narragansett School District to remain enrolled in their school of origin under the terms of the McKinney-Vento Act. In collaboration with local counsel Rhode Island Legal Services, the Law Center advocated extensively on behalf of the family, who has been living with relatives outside of the district since losing their housing in September of 2009.
After maintaining the students' enrollment through December of 2010, Narragansett contended that the family was no longer homeless and sought to transfer the students to their district of residence. The State Department of Education ultimately reversed this determination, finding explicitly that "there is no specific time limit placed upon how long a child or youth may be deemed to be homeless," and that such students have the right to remain enrolled in their schools of origin until they attain permanent housing. Citing the Law Center's guidance materials, the hearing officer specified that "[w]hether a child or youth meets the definition of homelessness depends upon the living situation and the individual circumstances. It is a case-specific inquiry."
|End Homelessness through the Combined Federal Campaign
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty will be participating in this year's combined federal campaign. CFC aims to support philanthropy among federal employees and is the largest workplace charity program nationwide.
We hope you will consider the Law Center in your pledging decisions this year. It can be found under "Homelessness and Poverty, National Law Center on" and our CFC code is 11947.