A Statement From the Law Center’s Founder & Executive Director Maria Foscarinis

Ben Carson’s Nomination for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Opportunities and Concerns

The news on December 5th that Ben Carson has accepted Trump’s nomination for HUD Secretary is potentially cause for concern for the millions of Americans who are homeless or at risk—and for anyone who cares about this continuing crisis.

It’s a common misconception that people become homeless as a result of personal failures or poor choices. But by far the overwhelming cause of homelessness is the scarcity of affordable housing, and strong leadership from HUD will be essential in addressing it. Dr. Carson has no experience in housing policy, and some of the few statements he’s made are troubling.

Dr. Carson has used his personal story to criticize “dependency” on government programs. His autobiography opens with an Introduction from his mother, Sonya Carson, saying, “If you don’t succeed, you only have yourself to blame.” He has criticized regulation, the size of the government, and emphasized the need for personal responsibility and work. In his one published piece in reference to housing and urban development, Dr. Carson referred to a fair housing program as “social engineering.”

But, in fact, we know that homelessness is generally caused by structural reasons – such the fact that wages are not high enough to pay for housing and our country needs millions more units of affordable housing. Currently the United States spends more to subsidize the housing market for households making over $100,000, through the mortgage income tax deduction, than for low-income households, through all the housing programs combined. If government subsidies cause “dependency,” where is the evidence that the mortgage deduction is undermining the upper class? We also know that racial segregation is caused by social engineering — those government policies and practices that perpetuate racial living patterns in our communities — not the reverse.

If Dr. Carson is confirmed by the Senate, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty will do anything it can to assist him and his team at HUD to prevent and end homelessness in constructive and proven ways. We are hopeful about Dr. Carson’s statements that he does “care about the poor people” and that “we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities.” We hope he will take the time to learn about the true causes and solutions for poverty and homelessness in this nation.

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For further information, please view Maria’s recent post featured on The Huffington Post.

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The Law Center Honors Former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

On Thursday, October 6, 2016 Eric H. Holder, Jr. received the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Lawyer’s Executive Advisory Partners’ Luncheon, hosted by the Law Center and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. Eric Holder served as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States from 2009 to 2015, under President Barack Obama. He was the first African American to serve in that position. Mr. Holder is currently a partner at Covington & Burling LLP.

 Additionally, members from our LEAP program shared stories about their pro bono projects instrumental to the Law Center’s mission to prevent and end homelessness. They also addressed the importance of fighting the criminalization of homelessness on a local and national level and the tremendous impact pro-bono efforts can have on communities across the country.

 The LEAP Program includes attorneys from corporate legal departments and law firms who provide pro-bono services, instrumental to the Law Center’s mission to prevent and end homelessness.

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2016 McKinney-Vento Awards

 2016 Event Highlights

The McKinney-Vento Awards Ceremony was held on Thursday September 22, 2016 at The Liaison Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

We would like to take this time to thank all of our sponsors, presenters, performers, honorees, guests, staff and volunteers for attending our event. It was a night to remember!

If interested in viewing our 2016 Awards, please visit our YouTube Channel.

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Law Center Executive Director & Founder Maria Foscarinis makes her opening remarks and gives a warm welcome to those in attendance at the 18th annual McKinney-Vento Awards.

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Chair of the Law Center’s Board of Directors Ed McNicholas prepares to take the stage to introduce Honorary McKinney-Vento Host Committee Chair Steve Judge.

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U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins (R-ME) accepts the Bruce F.
Vento Award, which was presented by Board Member and Honorary McKinney-Vento Host Committee Chair Steve Judge.

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Chief Executive Officer of Monumental Sports & Entertainment Ted Leonsis presents the Stewart B. McKinney Award to Washington Wizards’ John Wall.

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McKinney-Vento Host Committee Chair Dwight Fettig takes the stage to encourage the audience to make a donation to help the Law Center further their work – and entices them with the possibility of owning an official Washington Wizards’ jersey and NBA basketball autographed by John Wall.

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 Neil Steiner of Dechert LLP accepts the Pro Bono Counsel Award, which was presented by the Law Center’s Lawyers’ Executive Advisory Partners (LEAP) Chair Peter Thomas

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 Award winning anchor and correspondent for CBS News and CBS Sports Dana Jacobson presents the Personal Achievement Award to Ms. Angela Spencer and her son Amarion.

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Amarion, son of this year’s Personal Achievement Honoree, walks away with autographed gear from Washington Wizards’ John Wall. The gear was won by the evening’s highest donors and was then gifted to Amarion, who was one of the evening’s biggest stars.

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To End Homelessness, We Need To End The Criminalization Of It

Across the country, cities are criminalizing homelessness, making it illegal for people to sit, sleep, and even eat in public places—despite the lack of affordable housing and other basic resources. Communities of color, mentally and physically disabled persons, and LGBT youth, already disproportionately affected by homelessness, are further marginalized: getting a job, housing, or public benefits is even more challenging with an arrest record.

These laws and policies violate civil and human rights, harm vulnerable people, reinforce cycles of poverty, and don’t work. Housing does work—it solves the problem of homelessness for those most directly affected, and for cities concerned about their public places. It is cost effective:  housing homeless people costs less than criminalizing them and is more effective in the long term at the end goal of getting people out of poverty and into self-sufficiency.

Over the past year–following persistent, sustained advocacy by the Law Center and its allies–key federal agencies have taken strong positions against criminalization—and for constructive, housing based policies instead. These initiatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness were highlighted at the Forum by key leaders from the agencies, as well as local leaders who discussed their impact.

The Forum’s goal was to build on this momentum and to engage a broader spectrum of organizations and allies to work together on a new Campaign to disrupt that cycle.

Advocates, attorneys, formerly homeless individuals, funders and government leaders from over 40 organizations gathered at the Forum, designed as an invitation-only strategy session.

Four major themes emerged: the importance of partnerships, the need to change the narrative, the need to build upon existing momentum, and the need to build resources.

Funders can play an important role in each area.

As Funders Together CEO Amanda Andere, who played a key role at the Forum, emphasized, philanthropy can help to bring people together across traditional divides. This is especially important: as noted at the Forum, key potential partners span a broad range of sometimes unlikely allies, including state and local decision makers, law enforcement, judges, educators, the faith community, health providers, business, funders and the press.

Changing the narrative is also critical. In keynote remarks, Xav Briggs of the Ford Foundation emphasized that the country is beginning to look at issues of inequality, but that issues of the criminalization of poverty are just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential for public attention. Funders can help frame and lift up these issues, as well as fund message development work.

How we frame the issues is key to engaging broader audiences and expanding our support. We need to win both hearts and minds, and be able to engage decision-makers and other key influencers on both sides of the aisle. We can take lessons from other movements:  As Amanda noted at the Forum, the paid leave issue is gaining traction not just as a worker’s rights issue, but as a public health issue when restaurant workers are forced to come to work sick.

To carry out this work, we need resources, and a key theme at the Forum was how to expand resources for advocacy and organizing work. Funders can help by engaging potential supporters—including large foundations, family foundations, corporations, and individuals–as well as educating themselves on the issues and how strategies for supporting work on them.

The Forum helped us identify some specific next steps, including:

  • Develop toolkits with key research, talking points, and policy models for advocates and decision makers that can be widely disseminated to spur systemic change across the country
  • More deeply engage with philanthropy and individual donors not just as funders but as partners in connecting us to further opportunities;
  • Develop a clear, data-driven, relatable narrative that supports the goal of stopping criminalization and investing instead in housing solutions;

Just a few days after the Forum, the White House announced a new Data Driven Justice Initiative that will help local communities across the country use data to reduce unnecessary incarceration. The Law Center is pleased to be one of the partner organizations in this effort.

It can be easier to fight against something negative—criminalization– than to fight for something positive–housing and services. But by combining them into one effort we can be better positioned to make real change.  On November 15th, we and a core group of allies will be launching a new Campaign to do just that. To be added to the Campaign’s list serve, please send your name and contact information to jbrewer@nlchp.org. We hope you will join us!

Find this post on the Funders Together blog, published September 28, 2016.

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11 homeless individuals sued Eureka to stop eviction — and won

In April, 11 homeless people sued the city of Eureka to stop the planned eviction of a local homeless encampment where they are living. The federal court agreed with them, stopping the city from enforcing its anticamping law, saying such action would be unconstitutional. The court reasoned that because homeless people outnumber available shelter beds in Eureka (as they do in San Francisco), there is literally nowhere for them to live or sleep except outdoor public space.

Because humans must sleep, and because these individuals have nowhere else to go, the court ruled that punishing them for camping is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. Similar challenges have been raised around the country where homeless people outnumber available shelter options.

Betty Chinn’s Blue Angels “Village” is a storage container facility housing converted into shelter housing for some of the homeless individuals from the Palco Marsh in Eureka. Photo: Jessica M. Ernst, Special To The Chronicle Photo: Jessica M. Ernst, Special To The Chronicle Betty Chinn’s Blue Angels “Village” is a storage container facility housing converted into shelter housing for some of the homeless individuals from the Palco Marsh in Eureka.

The federal government has also weighed in on the constitutionality of laws prohibiting homeless people from sleeping in public. Last year, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest brief in a lawsuit challenging a camping ban in Boise, Idaho, asserting that criminally punishing homeless people for carrying out life-sustaining conduct in public is unconstitutional.

This position was underscored in subsequent remarks made by Attorney General Loretta Lynch at a recent White House convening on incarceration and poverty, and again in a Department of Justice community policing newsletter dedicated to the criminalization of homelessness.

Beyond constitutional concerns, the federal government has repeatedly condemned the criminalization of homelessness as ineffective and expensive public policy. For example, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness stated in its recent guidance on encampments: “The forced dispersal of people from encampment settings is not an appropriate solution or strategy, accomplishes nothing toward the goal of linking people to permanent housing opportunities, and can make it more difficult to provide such lasting solutions to people who have been sleeping and living in the encampment.”

The federal government has also altered at least one critical funding stream — the nearly $2 billion in federal funds awarded to communities for homeless services — to prioritize funding for communities that have reduced or eliminated the criminalization of homelessness.

THE HOMELESS PROBLEM

An elderly homeless man sleeps on a sidewalk on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, April 30, 2016. The emergence of an older homeless population is creating daunting challenges for social service agencies and governments already struggling to fight poverty. (Monica Almeida/The New York Times) A formula to get homeless individuals off the streets A homeless encampment seen through the windows of building owner Doug MacNeil of Spiral Binding, on Monday, August 1, 2016, in San Francisco, Calif. Townsquared lets SF merchants voice issues with homelessness.

The tent ban placed on the November ballot by Farrell is precisely the kind of criminalization policy that the federal government aims to end and that have been unsuccessfully tried around the country to no benefit. Rather than promote public safety or open sidewalks as claimed, these laws harm communities by wasting millions in taxpayer dollars. Indeed, data from San Francisco’s budget office shows that the city spent in 2015 more than $20 million on enforcement of its long list of existing laws criminalizing homelessness, with no apparent reduction in homelessness.

In a city with thousands fewer shelter beds than homeless people, even policies that require an offer of one night of shelter before an arrest — a provision touted as an improvement over the current practice — will fail to reduce homelessness. Instead of bringing the housing and shelter options to scale, these policies simply redirect limited resources from one person in favor of another, and displace homeless encampments from one public area to the next — a practice aptly called by homeless organizers the “sidewalk shuffle.”

In the end, only one solution will sustainably end homelessness, and that is housing. A growing body of research has shown that housing is not only more effective at ending homelessness, but it is also cheaper than criminalizing it. When the solution costs less than the problem, common sense dictates how public money should be invested.

By bringing to scale permanent supportive housing programs, expanding access to housing subsidies, and removing barriers to affordable rental housing, San Francisco can realize reductions in homelessness that will never be achieved by treating the housing crisis as a criminal justice problem.

Tristia Bauman is a senior attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

Find this post on the San Francisco Chronicle by Tristia Bauman, published August 9, 2016

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Reforming Housing and Criminal Justice Policies to End Homelessness

Each year, millions of individuals, families, and youth experience homelessness. A critical lack of affordable housing is the driving cause, and even emergency shelter space is in short supply, leaving many with no choice but to live in public places. But instead of providing housing, many communities are increasingly criminalizing homelessness. To solve the problem, they should shift course.

The critical lack of affordable housing, coupled with inadequate incomes, is the driving cause of homelessness.  Drastic cuts in federal housing programs over the past three decades have fueled the growth of homelessness; during the same period, and especially in recent years, the explosive redevelopment of many urban areas has destroyed inexpensive private market housing, displacing many poor people and driving some into homelessness. According to a recent report, there is currently a shortage of 7.2 million rental units affordable by the 10.4 million households with incomes at 30 percent or below of the median for the area.

But rather than addressing the housing gap, communities are increasingly punishing homeless people by making it a crime to sit, sleep, and eat in public places, even in the absence of alternatives. For our most recent national report on the topic, No Safe Place, published in 2014, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Povertysurveyed 187 cities and found that criminalizing measures had increased dramatically since our last survey in 2011. Strikingly, city-wide bans on “camping” in public places increased by 60 percent and sleeping in vehicles increased by 119percent.  Some cities even prohibited private charities from offering food to poor people in public.

 Criminalizing measures are often the result of pressure from business groups, and sometimes private citizens, to “do something” about homelessness. Businesses argue that the presence of destitute people deters commerce and tourism, harming the city’s economy. Residents of gentrifying city centers may be disturbed by the sight of ragged people and the experience of being implored for spare change. The result is laws criminalizing the public presence of homeless and poor people, in an effort to drive them out of downtown or even all areas of the city.

But such measures do nothing to the problem—or to address these concerns. Instead, they simply force people to move from place to place, making their lives even more challenging. Even worse, and ironically, such measures prolong homelessness, deepening the problem they are trying to eliminate. Ultimately, arrested or incarcerated people experiencing homelessness return to their communities, still with nowhere to live and now burdened with financial obligations, such as fines and fees that they can’t pay. Criminal records create barriers to employment, housing, and public benefits, making homelessness even more difficult to escape.

Criminalization is the most expensive and least effective way of addressing homelessness, as demonstrated by a growing body of research. For example, a 2013study by University of New Mexico showed that by providing housing, the city of Albuquerque reduced spending on homelessness-related jail costs by 64 percent.

 Criminalization also raises important constitutional concerns; a number of courts have invalidated such measures. The strategy raises human rights concerns too; the U.N. Human Rights Committee recently found that the criminalization of homelessness violates our country’s human rights obligations.

Last year, after years of advocacy by the Law Center and our allies, key federal agencies began taking our side, adopting a new stance against criminalization. The Department of Justice filed a supportive brief in our case challenging a camping ban in Boise, ID, stating that criminalizing homelessness violates the U.S. Constitution.

Also last year, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness issued guidance saying evicting homeless encampments without providing adequate alternative housing is never appropriate. And the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development inserted a new question into its application for a $2 billion grant program giving local governments and organizations higher scores if they demonstrate they are preventing the criminalization of homelessness.

Now, together with advocates across the country, the Law Center is developing a campaign to redirect law and policy away from criminalization and towards housing instead. Over 100 organizations are working on the campaign, and we expect to launch it formally later this year.

As advocates to end homelessness, we agree that people should not be living in public places or begging for change. The question is what to do about this. We believe that it is morally wrong, legally questionable, and ineffective public policy to simply make it a crime to do these things. Instead, we should truly solve the problem of homelessness through affordable housing, fair wages and public benefits, and social services.

This is a critical moment in the national response to homelessness. We have a unique opportunity to build on the momentum of these recent successes to move forward to redirect law and policy away from harmful, counterproductive and costly responses to constructive solutions that can end homelessness in America. The time to act is now.

Find this post on the Spotlight on Poverty blog, published June 14, 2016.

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Shifting the Focus From Criminalization to Housing

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What would happen if we started focusing on housing those experiencing homelessness instead of criminalizing the individuals? Maria Foscarinis of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty examines the moral and financial cost of the criminalization of people who have fallen into homelessness and how funders can help redirect policy towards housing instead.

Imagine a world where it is illegal to sit down. Could you survive if there were no place where you were allowed to fall asleep, store your belongings, or even stand still? For most of us, it’s hard to fathom facing such challenges. For Americans who are experiencing homelessness, they are an ordinary part of daily life.

Millions of individuals, families, and youth experience homelessness each year, and millions more lack access to decent, stable housing they can afford. Nationally, even emergency shelter space is in short supply, leaving many with no choice but to struggle for survival in public places.

But rather than providing housing, too many communities criminalize homelessness by making it illegal for people to sit, sleep, and even eat in public places, even in the absence of adequate alternatives.

For our most recent national report on the topic, No Safe Place, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty surveyed 187 cities and found that the criminalization is highly prevalent in cities across the country, and has increased dramatically in recent years. Strikingly, bans on sleeping in vehicles have increased by 119%.

Criminalization is the most expensive and least effective way of addressing homelessness, as demonstrated by a growing body of research comparing the cost of homelessness, including the cost of criminalization, with housing.  For example, a 2015 study by University of North Carolina, Charlotte revealed a Housing First pilot program that saved Mecklenberg County $2.4 million over 3 years and had an over 80% success rate in ending homelessness.

Criminalization measures do nothing to address the underlying causes of homelessness and, instead, only worsen the problem. Ultimately, arrested or incarcerated people experiencing homelessness return to their communities, still with nowhere to live and now laden with financial obligations, such as fines and fees that they can’t pay. Moreover, criminal records can create barriers to employment, housing, and public benefits, making homelessness even more difficult to escape.

Criminalization laws raise important constitutional concerns, and a number of courts have invalidated them. They raise equality and human rights concerns as well; the U.N. Human Rights Committee recently found that the criminalization of homelessness violates our country’s human rights obligations. And such laws can disproportionately specific sub-populations such as people of color, disabled people, and LGBT youth.

The Law Center and our allies have been pushing for the federal government to take a more active position against the criminalization of homelessness. After years of advocacy, last summer this work began to pay off:

  • In August, 2015, the Department of Justice filed a brief in our case challenging a camping ban in Boise, ID, supporting our position and stating that criminalizing homelessness violates the U.S. Constitution. A few months later, the DoJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services stated:  “Arresting people for performing basic life-sustaining activities like sleeping in public takes law enforcement professionals away from what they are trained to do: fight crime.”
  • Also in August 2015, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness issued guidance saying evicting homeless encampments without providing adequate alternative housing is never appropriate.
  • And in September 2015, the Department of Housing & Urban Development inserted a new question into its application for a $2 billion grant program giving local governments and organizations higher scores if they demonstrate they are preventing the criminalization of homelessness.

Now, together with advocates across the country, the Law Center is developing a campaign to redirect law and policy away from criminalization and towards housing instead. Over 100 organizations are working on the campaign, and we expect to launch it formally later this year.

Funders have a key role to play in making this work successful. There are many ways to get involved.  You can:

  1. Convene key stakeholders in your community—including business leaders, local officials, service providers, advocates and homeless people– to learn about the issues, understand why criminalization is not the solution, and get behind policies to create more housing options.
  2. Support education, outreach, training and technical assistance to your community learn how to use the new federal policies to make change locally.
  3. Support advocacy to build on the momentum of recent victories—at all levels of government.
  4. Endorse our campaign—and become an advocate in your own community. Use your voice and influence within your area to start the conversation and initiate change.

No fair minded person wants those who are experiencing homelessness to have to live in public places. The question is what to do about this. We feel that with information and good will, we can find common ground and all stakeholders can get behind the goal fighting against criminalization and for  adequate housing for all.

Find this post on the Funders Together blog, published April 4, 2016.

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2016 LEAP Breakfast

On June 16th, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty held its LEAP (Lawyers Executive Advisory Partners) Breakfast at the Bank of America in Washington D.C. The LEAP Program includes attorneys from corporate legal departments and law firms who provide pro-bono services, instrumental to the Law Center’s mission to prevent and end homelessness.
Speakers included Helen Kanovsky, General Counsel, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development; Law Center Executive Director, Maria Foscarinis; Bruce Rosenblum, Managing Director at the Carlyle Group and Corporate Advisor to LEAP; Larry Chattoo, Assistant General Counsel at Bank of America; and Peter Thomas LEAP Chair and Managing Partner at Simpson Thacher LLP’s Washington D.C. office.
Speakers shared about their pro bono projects instrumental to the Law Center’s mission to prevent and end homelessness. They also addressed the importance of fighting the criminalization of homelessness on a local and national level and the tremendous impact pro-bono efforts can have on communities across the country. Visit www.nlchp.org/leap to learn more about pro bono opportunities with the Law Center.
 IMG_4104 IMG_4206IMG_4181IMG_4226IMG_4224IMG_4198IMG_4097IMG_4099IMG_4102IMG_4093IMG_4087IMG_4072Photos by Janelle Fernandez
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This Week’s Timely Reminder from Pope Francis

This week, Pope Francis has been in Washington, D.C. – at the White House, Capitol Hill, the Basilica, and a homeless shelter. This pope, a massively popular cultural star and hero to many, has touched a nerve in his approach to poverty. At a time when Los Angeles, CA and Portland, OR are declaring that their homelessness constitutes a “state of emergency,” his message is especially timely.

Pope Francis both speaks and lives in a way that honors the poor, that lifts up their humanity and their dignity through respect.  This approach, of respecting and restoring the humanity and dignity of the world’s least fortunate, is refreshing and in many ways antithetical to the louder cultural forces that tell us to blame, punish, and dehumanize those who are suffering.

In his speech at the White House and his speech before a joint session of Congress, the Pope pointed again and again to the needs of the poor and our national obligation to do something about them.  He called out to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, four Americans whose impact on this country came from their service and dedication, their humility and respect for those with the least. He has said in the past “the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies”

And his deeds have matched these words.  Thursday, the pope left Capitol Hill to spend his lunchtime with DC residents experiencing homelessness. Just before lunch he said, “we can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing,” as he reminded everyone that Jesus entered the world as a homeless person.

We do not end homelessness by blaming or punishing those who are experiencing it. But we also do not end homelessness by bestowing meager benefits while looking down judgmentally on those who seek help. We end homelessness when we recognize the inherent dignity and humanity of each person and we change our policies to reflect that. This approach is a human rights approach and stems from universal human rights in international law that call for a right to housing.

In fact, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has come out strongly in support of the human right to housing.

The Catholic bishops believe decent, safe, and affordable housing is a human right. Catholic teaching supports the right to private property, but recognizes that communities and the government have an obligation to ensure the housing needs of all are met, especially poor and vulnerable people and their families. At a time of rising homelessness and when many workers’ wages are stagnant and living expenses are rising, it is important to ensure housing security.

If we can learn one thing about the Pope’s ability to inspire and capture attention, it should be this: he lives and acts the fundamental idea that every human being has inherent dignity and humanity and that every community has responsibilities to respect and uphold that humanity. We need to change our approach to poverty and homelessness.

We need to start with respect for the dignity and humanity of all, add policies that embody that respect, and move toward a human right to housing.

 

Find this post on the Huffington Post Blog.

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The 2015 National Forum on the Human Right to Housing

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Wednesday, June 24 and Thursday, June 25 marked the Law Center’s two-day National Forum on the Human Right to Housing, hosted by the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The event gathered organizers, attorneys and legal service providers, funders, federal agencies, and advocates at the local, state, and national levels to strategize coordinated approaches to opposing the criminalization of homelessness and work towards a common goal of a justiciable human right to housing.

Keynote speaker, Mark Uhry of Fondation Abbe Pierre, spoke to the successes and ongoing work in his home country, as France implements a right to housing. Mr. Uhry provided a look at where we can go from here as many advocates seek to move towards this right in the United States. Following the keynote were presentations on current challenges and opportunities: advocates spoke on their current fight against the criminalization of homeless individuals, future goals shaping affirmative rights, and using the power of federal funding and framing to protect rights and advance housing.

The Law Center facilitated discussion and advocated that the battle against the criminalization of those experiencing homelessness provided a unique and strategic opportunity to make a civil and human rights demand: safe and affordable housing for all. Morning breakout sessions spoke to litigation strategy, the power of organizing, and policy advocacy. During the lunch session, the floor opened up to a funder’s discussion led by P.J. D’Amico of the Buck Foundation in Denver, CO. He spoke about honestly about how advocates can partner with funders and encouraged those asking for funding to think of funders as allies. It was an honor to have his perspective and to hear about his passion of ending and preventing homelessness. In the afternoon, the issues were approached from the local, state, and national levels, discussing topics including local ordinances, Homeless Bill of Rights, affordable housing policy, and a shift from criminalization to pro-housing policy at the federal level.

Thank you to Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center and our other sponsors, Covington & Burling LLP, Fish & Richardson P.C. and Sidley Austin LLP, and to our participants from all across the United States. Your time, energy and dedication were invaluable in facilitating meaningful conversation and moving us all toward consensus about our shared approach to ending the criminalization of homelessness and promoting instead the human right to housing.

Posted in Children & Youth, Civil Rights, Criminalization, Domestic Violence, Housing, Human Rights, Race, Veterans | Tagged , , | Leave a comment