Founder &
Executive Director
 

Maria Foscarinis
Founder & Executive Director 


 

“My family suffered terribly during the German occupation of Greece in World War II, and as a child I heard my parents’ stories of starvation, deprivation and loss—as well as courageous resistance—on an almost nightly basis. I wanted to use the relative privilege of my life to fight for a world where no one has to suffer the injustice of dire poverty.” 

In the mid-1980s, Maria was a litigator at Sullivan & Cromwell, a large corporate law firm, where she volunteered to represent homeless families on a pro bono basis. After seeing the impact of first-rate legal advocacy on the lives of homeless people, she left the firm to dedicate herself to that work full-time. In 1989, she established the Law Center with one goal in mind: ending homelessness in America.


Maria has advocated for solutions to homelessness at the national level since 1985. She is a primary architect of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, the first major federal legislation addressing homelessness, and she has litigated to secure the legal rights of homeless persons. Maria has written widely on legal and policy issues affecting homeless persons; her work has appeared in scholarly as well as general audience publications. She speaks and lectures regularly on law, public policy and homelessness and is frequently quoted in the print and electronic media. She serves on the Board of Advisers of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and is Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School.

Maria is a 1977 graduate of Barnard College and a 1981 graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was Notes and Comments editor of the Law Review. She also holds a M.A. in philosophy. After graduating from law school, she clerked for the Honorable Amalya L. Kearse on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Maria is proud to be the recipient of the 2016 Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize.
Staff
 
 
 
 

Tristia Bauman
Senior Attorney




 

“As the daughter of a disabled father and an immigrant mother, I grew up poor and I know well the barriers to success imposed by poverty. I became a public interest attorney, and the Housing Program Director at the Law Center, to break down those barriers and to provide every person – people just like me – with the chance to thrive.”

Tristia Bauman combines litigation, legal education, and legislative advocacy strategies to prevent and end homelessness. Her work focuses on combating the criminalization of homelessness and advocating for laws that protect the civil and human rights of homeless people. Tristia also conducts legal trainings around the country, writes reports and other publications related to housing, and serves as a legal resource for homeless advocates.

Tristia began her law career at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. as a housing attorney working with low-income tenants in federally subsidized housing. She later served for several years as an Assistant Public Defender in Miami-Dade County.

Tristia hails from Auckland, New Zealand but was raised in Washington State where she attended the University of Washington as an undergraduate and law student. She received her B.A. in Anthropology in 2000 and her J.D. in 2006.

 

Lisa DeBone
Development & Communications Assistant



 

“We have the resources to ensure everyone has a safe and secure home. Having a place to live provides the foundation to address so many other issues.”

Lisa is the Development and Communications Assistant. She served as the Development and Communications AmeriCorps VISTA at the Law Center for a year before becoming a member of staff. Prior to joining the Law Center, Lisa served a year with AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA aiding in disaster planning, response, and recovery. While serving in FEMA Corps Lisa contributed to long-term, sustainable recovery planning at FEMA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Also during her FEMA service, Lisa responded to disasters in Louisiana, West Virginia, and Florida as part of FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance cadre.

Before joining AmeriCorps, Lisa earned a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Public Relations from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in her home state of Michigan. During her time at GVSU, she served as the Vice President of Chapter Development for the GVSU chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Through her involvement with PRSSA and internships with PR agencies Lisa was able to advance her abilities in development and communications. Lisa looks forward to furthering the mission of the Law Center by promoting awareness of solutions to homelessness and building organizational capacity.
   

Heidi Sahmel
Operations Manager


 

“Homelessness in the United States is a glaring reflection, if not the direct result, of the disparities that exist between incomes, races, genders, and sexual orientations in our country. Those of us with the power to do so must work tirelessly to ensure basic human rights for others, starting with a place to sleep at night.”

As the Operations Manager, Heidi is responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the Law Center, including human resources, budgeting, and administration. Additionally, she supports the Deputy Director in the areas of financial management and strategic planning.

Prior to joining the Law Center, Heidi was the Admissions & Student Finance Coordinator for a K-12 international school in Curacao for four years. She has also interned for various nonprofit organizations in the Washington, D.C. area that work to protect the rights of low-income Americans and immigrants.

Heidi earned an MBA from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, where she was the Executive Vice President of the Human Capital and Leadership Club (HCAL), and a J.D., cum laude, from American University Washington College of Law. She earned a B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a major in Psychology and a minor in German. By participating in six international exchange programs as a student, Heidi realized the true scale of poverty and homelessness within the United States and the solvability of both.
   

Eric Tars
Senior Attorney


“My father grew up homeless, as a refugee following WWII. I believe every person deserves to be treated with the same dignity and respect for basic human rights as I would have wanted to see him and his family receive.”

Eric Tars serves as the Law Center's senior attorney, focusing on human rights and children's rights programs. In his human rights capacity, he works with homelessness and housing advocacy organizations to train and strategically utilize human rights as a component of their work. In his youth rights capacity, he works to protect homeless students' rights to education and advocates for homeless youth and families through trainings, litigation, and policy advocacy at the national and local levels.
 
Before coming to the Law Center, Eric was a Fellow with Global Rights' U.S. Racial Discrimination Program and consulted with Columbia University Law School's Human Rights Institute and the US Human Rights Network. Eric's work has spanned the country and the globe. He coordinated the involvement of hundreds of organizations in the hearings of the U.S. before the UN Committee Against Torture and Human Rights in 2006. Eric has conducted numerous trainings on integrating human rights strategies into domestic advocacy, and he currently serves as the chair of the US Human Rights Network's training committee and on the Steering Committee of the Human Rights at Home Campaign.

Eric received his J.D. as a Global Law Scholar at the Georgetown University Law Center. He received his B.A. in political science from Haverford College and studied international human rights in Vienna at the Institute for European Studies and at the University of Vienna.

Cassidy Waskowicz
Pro Bono Counsel


“After reading about the affordable housing crisis in the United States, I decided I wanted to help end and prevent homelessness.”

As Pro Bono Counsel for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, Cassidy coordinates the pro bono work that lawyers at law firms and corporations complete on behalf of the Law Center.  She also keeps these lawyers aware of available pro bono projects and Law Center events and assists with the planning of such events.
 
Prior to joining the Law Center, Cassidy served as the acting general counsel for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission - a commission created by Congress in 2009 to "Examine the causes of the current financial and economic crisis of the United States."  While at the Commission, Cassidy was involved in all aspects of the Commission's legal work, including drafting and negotiating the publishing agreements of the Commission; advising the Commission on how to respond to requests made by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; coordinating the Commission's document retention policy with the National Archives and Records Administration; advising Commission staff on obligations under confidentiality agreements; and drafting staff and vendor contracts.  Before working at the Commission, Cassidy worked at Hunton & Williams, in both the firm’s New York and Washington offices.  While at the firm, Cassidy was a corporate lawyer with varied experience related to real estate, asset securitization and corporate governance.  During the summer after her first year at Cornell Law School, she worked at Legal Aid, Brooklyn Office for the Aging.  Cassidy also worked on Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential Campaign. 
 
Cassidy earned a J.D. from Cornell Law School.  She is a graduate of Wellesley College, graduating cum laude in history.  Cassidy lived in Singapore for two years with her family where she also worked as a contract lawyer for a small telecommunications company located in California.   
 
AmeriCorps VISTAs  

Dejah Craddock
Development & Communications VISTA

“Working at the Law Center gives me the chance to bring awareness to certain issues that affect a constantly overlooked population, such as criminalization issues and equal housing opportunities.”

Dejah is the Development and Communications AmeriCorps VISTA. Prior to joining AmeriCorps and the Law Center, Dejah was an intern for the National Park Service under the Department of Interior. Dejah focused on record management and responding to FOIA inquires. Before working with the park service, Dejah earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication & Media Studies and Marketing from Winston Salem State University (WSSU). During her time at WSSU she served as the Public Relations Chair for Senior Student Council, did study abroad to Kenya, and served with Habitat for Humanity in the Dominican Republic.

Nicole Davies
Data Management VISTA

“When I was young my mother taught me that it is important to help others.  We did not have much money so we would give back to our community by volunteering together. I want to continue to help others and work towards the goal of ending homelessness.”

Nicole is serving as the Data Management AmeriCorps VISTA at the Law Center. Prior to serving with AmeriCorps, Nicole worked for a nonprofit in Washington DC for over ten years.  Her work there included program coordinator for a professional development program, Associate Editor of an online science review journal, logistical and administrative support for a hands on summer science program, and data management for various projects and meetings. Before moving to the DC area, she worked for the New York State Assembly for two legislative sessions. 

Nicole is originally from Rome, New York. She studied Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY and earned her B.A. During college, she interned for the New York Public Interest Research Group, Legal Aid Society, and the New York State Assembly.
 
Rachel Lee
Networks and Events AmeriCorps VISTA

“Growing up, I was cognizant of poverty in America because of my father’s experiences with poverty when he was young and my mother’s experience immigrating to the United States from Sri Lanka when she was a teenager. My parents were able to provide me with the opportunities and resources that they had lacked, which inspired me to work towards ending homelessness and poverty.”

As the Networks and Events Americorps VISTA at the Law Center, Rachel’s work is focused on sustaining and expanding the Housing Not Handcuffs campaign. Rachel is excited to be a part of the Law Center, which does amazing work that addresses the causes of poverty in impactful and long-lasting ways.

Prior to joining Americorps VISTA, Rachel graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas with a B.A. in History and Political Science and a minor in Sociology. During her time in college, Rachel served as Vice President of Rice University’s Pre-law Society and as Vice President of Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science honor society. She was very involved with Rice’s chapter of Camp Kesem, the only national non-profit organization that attends to the needs of kids affected by their parent’s cancer. Rachel also interned at several non-profit and government organizations including: International Emergency and Development Aid Relief, FuelEd Schools, the Texas First Court of Appeals, the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee, and the Office of Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.