Each day, as my computer shakes to life, I’m conscious that the work my colleagues do is vitally important. But the enormity of homelessness and poverty can weigh on a person, and numb them to the good days. I wonder when the day will come when homelessness is removed from the American picture, finding life only in personal and academic histories.
I remind myself, though, that history is but a string of small moments, bound by the fibers of perspective.
Each year, at our annual McKinney-Vento Awards, the Law Center pays tribute to those moments and to the people responsible for them. This year, on October 14, at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., we’re proud to welcome U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan as the keynote speaker at this evening dedicated to those working diligently to end homelessness.
That night, we’ll be proud to honor New York Times best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich, whose work has demonstrated a deep commitment to raising awareness and promoting understanding about poverty and homelessness in the U.S. We’re also excited to honor Dechert LLP, a firm which has displayed an exemplary commitment to pro bono legal work.
I also admit a deeply personal affection for our other awardees – the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, which will receive the Bruce F. Vento Award, and the Elzer family, which will receive the Personal Achievement Award.
Kristy, William, and the Elzer children were a typical American family – overworked and underpaid, but enjoying home life in a Pittsburgh suburb. Then, in the span of a month, William was laid off, their vehicle was repossessed, and they became homeless.
But as the children began to adjust to their new situation, they were faced with another bleak prospect. The kids’ school district claimed they were no longer eligible to attend school because several of the churches they took shelter in were outside the district. In the blink of an eye, the last vestige of the lives they knew was ripped away from them.
With the help of the Education Law Center and our own Children & Youth Attorney Eric Tars, the Elzers fought the ruling. And in March, they won the battle. The district agreed to comply with the law and re-enroll the children, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued new guidelines to prevent this from happening to the state’s 43,000 other homeless children.
It’s because of people and organizations like the Elzers, Barbara Ehrenreich, Dechert, and the Education Law Center that I choose to believe these small moments are not tangents of today’s history, but the substance of a future history.
-Andy Beres, Grant Writer & Communications Assistant