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Living in the Shadows
Lawyers Working to
End Homelessness 
News and Commentary for
October 2012
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14th Annual McKinney-Vento Awards 
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November 15, 2012 
Dear Supporter,

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and it's an important occasion for anyone concerned about homelessness. As I discuss in my latest Huffington Post article, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness -- for women, in particular, as well as unaccompanied youth. For many, the only choice may be between continued abuse and fleeing their home. For those who lack the resources to secure alternate housing, the result may be homelessness -- and further violence.

 

Maria Foscarinis

In the absence of sufficient safe, affordable housing or stable shelter, many survivors join other homeless people living in public places. There, they face increased exposure to violence, as indicated by the shocking number of crimes committed against them.  For homeless women, rape is disturbingly prevalent.

 

Life without safe housing presents other dangers, too, for both women and men.  Without a street address, it is difficult to maintain a legal identity, making it challenging or impossible to access vital resources such as health care.

 

Click here to read more. 

Join Us at the 14th Annual McKinney-Vento Awards on November 15
 
On November 15, the Law Center will host its 14th Annual McKinney-Vento Awards Dinner and Reception at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel in Washington, D.C.  Tickets are still available!

Sandra Lee
Sandra Lee 
Stewart B. McKinney Award 

This year, we're marking the 25th Anniversary of the landmark McKinney-Vento Act, while honoring outstanding contributions to the fight to end homelessness and laying out a vision for finishing the job.

 

We're proud to be honoring Emmy Award-winner and philanthropist Sandra Lee, Rhode Island Senator John Tassoni, the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project, Danae Vachata, Covington & Burling, and Navigant for their efforts to end homelessness.

 

Click here to learn more and purchase tickets!

Preventing Homelessness for Domestic Violence Survivors 

 

As we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it's important to renew our resolve to prevent violence whenever possible and help survivors deal with its devastating consequences -- including loss of housing. In 2011, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that 13 percent of homeless women surveyed cited domestic violence or abuse as the primary cause of their homelessness.

 

Often, a survivor's fear of becoming homeless keeps them from reporting their abuser, putting a survivor and her children at greater and greater risk over time. When a survivor finally does resolve to escape the situation, a number of factors make it difficult for them to obtain safe and permanent housing -- including economic abuse, negative credit history due to previous incidents of domestic violence, and eviction threats or denial of housing assistance when a landlord is unaware of federal and state housing protections for survivors. Domestic Violence

 

Amendments to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), enacted in 2006 following advocacy by the Law Center and our partners, were designed to prevent domestic violence survivors from becoming homeless by prohibiting discrimination against them in public housing. This means survivors who reside in certain federally-subsidized housing, such as Section 8, may not be evicted or denied housing assistance because of the violence perpetrated against them.

 

VAWA's housing provisions have helped prevent homelessness for thousands of survivors and their children. But so many are still in need. That's why we're urging Congress to take a tougher stand against domestic violence and housing loss by reauthorizing and expanding VAWA in 2013. The bill the Law Center helped draft with Senator Al Franken's office, S. 1925, would extend VAWA's housing rights to other federal housing programs and add protection for sexual assault survivors.

 

You can get involved by contacting your Member of Congress and urging them to support the Senate bill in the House of Representatives.

 

In the coming weeks, the Law Center will release an updated report on state housing protections for domestic violence survivors. We encourage state and local advocates to keep pushing their elected representatives to take this issue on in a comprehensive manner. This Domestic Violence Awareness
Month, let's commit to do everything possible to ensure no one must choose between homelessness and remaining with an abuser. 
Youth and Children the Focus of Federal Plan to End Homelessness Amendment
 

She needs your help.An update to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness' Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, released on September 12, provides more detail on what must be done for young people experiencing homelessness, including unaccompanied youth.

 

The amendment to the 2010 Federal Plan is the result of extensive advocacy by the Law Center and our partners, and includes many of the recommendations we put forth. 

 

The federal plan, known as Opening Doors, is the first federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. One of its four goals is to end homelessness among families, children, and youth by 2020.  The Council says this amendment "provides further clarity on what needs to be done specifically for children and youth" in order to achieve that.

 

New Clearwater Laws Criminalize, Perpetuate Homelessness
 
The City of Clearwater, Florida has enacted new dramatic measures to criminalize homelessness. These laws ban life-sustaining acts such as sitting, lying down, and sleeping that homeless persons have no choice but to perform in public spaces. These measures, which seem designed to move homeless individuals out of the city, do nothing to address the root causes of homelessness, and instead perpetuate it.

 Homeless Person

These laws give police offers excessive discretion in their exercise, which raises the risk that they will be used to unfairly target homeless persons. For instance, an ordinance prohibiting "lodging" outdoors is drafted broadly so that those who use blankets or sleeping bags for sleeping, have too many personal belongings with them, or tell an officer that they have no other place to live are at risk of citation or arrest. 


Clearwater's criminalization laws come with harsh punishments. People who violate the lodging ordinance, as well as prohibitions on camping and soliciting donations from drivers, are now subject to fines of up to $500 and/or a prison term of up to 60 days for each violation. Imposing such severe penalties for minor offenses only exacerbates the difficulties faced by homeless persons and demonstrates Clearwater's intent to treat homelessness as a criminal justice problem.

 

In a joint press release with Southern Legal Counsel and the National Coalition for the Homeless, the Law Center urged the City of Clearwater to reconsider these draconian measures.

 

If you believe, as we do, that criminalizing homelessness is morally reckless and violates homeless persons' fundamental rights, please support the Law Center and help us end these destructive policies.
About the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

The Law Center is the only national legal advocacy organization dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness in America.  It fights in the halls of power for laws and policies that protect homeless people's rights and help them rise out of poverty.