Federal Court Victory for Homeless Advocates Seeking Unused Federal Property
Press Type: Press Release Associated Program: Housing
In a ruling issued earlier today in Washington, D.C., a federal court denied the Obama Administration's motion to set aside a 1993 court order against the federal government requiring compliance with Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a law that gives homeless services providers access to unused federal properties for free.
The government argued that the injunction was unnecessary because it had demonstrated nearly two decades of unblemished compliance with the law. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who in a prior order described the government's position as "baffling," disagreed. The court found that, "[m]any landholding agencies appear to be hiding potentially eligible properties from the Title V process," and that this "widespread" form of "landbanking" constitutes a serious violation of both the injunction and the Act itself.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty opposed the government's motion and sought to modify the order to require the government to take additional steps to ensure compliance with the law. The court granted that motion and ordered the government to engage in improved training, monitoring, and reporting of properties while the order is in place.
This ruling represents an important win for homeless service providers who rely upon the Title V program to provide affordable access to unneeded federal properties for use as shelters, food banks, job training centers, and other public benefits. "With some 3.5 million Americans homeless each year, Title V is more important than ever. This program works, and we believe that today's order will further increase the program's effectiveness," said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the Law Center.
The Law Center will soon be releasing a report on the successes of the Title V program, which serves over 2 million people each year. "There is no question that the Title V program is a critical part of the government's effort to eliminate homelessness by 2015," says Tristia Bauman, housing attorney at the Law Center. "We are thrilled with today's ruling and we look forward to the government's renewed commitment to this vital program."
Covington & Burling represented the plaintiffs pro bono, along with the Law Center and Jeffrey Pash, general counsel at the National Football League. Georgia Kazakis, a partner at Covington and a member of the Law Center's board of Directors, led the pro bono team of lawyers for the firm.
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