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Living in the Shadows
Lawyers Working to
End Homelessness 
News and Commentary for
May 2012
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All-In to End Homelessness
Dear Friend,

Disability benefits. Domestic violence. Tent cities. Homelessness cuts across many different issues, and these are just a few of them, taken from the topics addressed in this month's IJT.

 

As I wrote about in my recent Huffington Post article, Maria Foscarinishomelessness affects a wide swath of the U.S. population -- and the breadth and depth of its reach is increasing, as foreclosures and unemployment continue to take their toll on low-income and, increasingly, middle-income families and individuals. You wouldn't necessarily know this from looking at some of the data released by HUD, which most recently reported a 2.2 percent decrease in the numbers. That's because HUD defines homelessness very narrowly, excluding many people without homes.

New Report Shows Denial of Social Security Benefits Perpetuates Homelessness 

Today, the Law Center released Improving Access, a new report on how bureaucratic barriers are preventing thousands of homeless Americans from accessing Social Security disability benefits that could help them get off the street.
Andy Beres
Social Security benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), are critical to keeping people with disabilities in stable housing through income support and health services.  Unfortunately, the application process is cumbersome and freezes out many eligible homeless people.  While up to 40 percent are potentially eligible due to physical or mental disability, only 14 percent actually receive benefits.

 

Click here to read more.  

Senate Votes to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act 

On April 26, the U.S. Senate voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.  The bill, passed with bipartisan support, includes new housing provisions advocated for and drafted in part by the Law Center.  Key among them are:
  • Expanding protections to all federal housing programs;Megan Huber, Development & Communications Intern
  • Extending protections to victims of sexual assault;
  • Broadening the definition of "immediate family member," so that tenants are not evicted due to violence against a relative; and
  • Requiring housing providers to immediately transfer survivors to new housing if their abuser poses a continued threat.
While the Law Center applauds the Senate's work, this is not the end of the process.  Attention turns now to the House of Representatives, which is considering parallel legislation.  We urge the House to act with the same decisiveness and bipartisan spirit.  Preventing homelessness for domestic violence survivors is a goal we all share, regardless of ideology.
Rescheduled Webinar on the Rise of Tent Cities in the United States
 

On Tuesday, May 22, the Law Center will be hosting a free webinar previewing its upcoming report, "Welcome Home: The Rise of Tent Cities in the United States."  Due to technical difficulties, the previous webinar on this subject was rescheduled. 

 

Eric Tars

With homelessness and poverty at record levels, there have been increasing reports of homeless encampments emerging in virtually every state in the country.

 

The response of municipalities has varied. Some have shut down camps, often arresting residents and destroying their property. Others have regularized the camps, allowing residents to build more permanent structures in place of tents. And some, commendably, have chosen to address the underlying issue - lack of housing - by helping residents access supportive housing.

 

The Law Center has partnered with the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School to produce a report examining a few representative tent cities, with the goal of shedding light on why the camps exist, sharing stories of their residents, and demonstrating common ways communities have responded to the trend. The report also identifies the major human rights implications of forced evictions and offers best practices for municipalities.

 

To register for the webinar, click here.
Law Center Executive Director Interviewed at Marquette University Pro Bono Exchange
 

On April 20, Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the Law Center, was interviewed before an audience of students, faculty, and members of the legal community at Marquette University Law School's Posner Pro Bono Exchange.  The interview, conducted by journalist and Marquette professor Mike Gousha, covered Maria's personal decision to leave a corporate law firm and dedicate herself to ending homelessness, current trends in the issue, and the Law Center's unique role in the national cause.  Following the interview, students who had performed 50 or more hours of pro bono service during their law school careers were recognized and inducted into Marquette's Pro Bono Society.

"I was impressed and inspired," Maria noted afterward, "by the interest and commitment to public service by the school as a whole -- the Dean, the faculty, the students -- and by Josh Gimbel of the Posner Family Foundation, whose generous support made the event possible."

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.