In this podcast, Bill Gilmartin, Senior Policy Advisor at the National Association of Realtors, and Tristia Bauman, Housing Attorney at the Law Center, discuss the important applications of the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act to real estate professionals and their work.

Twenty-five years ago-on July 22, 1987-Congress passed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. This landmark legislation provides federal funding for shelters and other services for people who are homeless. It also offered educational protections for children whose families do not have a home address.

The Law Center marked the occasion on July 19 with an event celebrating the Act’s successes, while laying out a vision for finally ending homelessness in America.  The National Association of Realtors, with which the Law Center is working to ensure renters of foreclosed properties known their rights under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, hosted the event at its office overlooking the Capitol.


The Law Center is proud to announce a new home for its blog:

If you’re currently subscribing to the blog by e-mail, you’ll need to subscribe to the new site to continue receiving updates.

And for those following the blog through an RSS feed, you’ll need to add the new site to your RSS reader.

We hope you’ll join us at our blog’s new and improved home, as we continue the fight to end and prevent homelessness in America.

In my work on housing rights for domestic violence survivors, I’m regularly aware of the impossibility of addressing the issue of homelessness in a vacuum.  While those of us engaged in legal and policy work at the Law Center tend to focus on specific subject areas, the boundaries of our fields of expertise, as is generally the case in poverty law, are increasingly porous.  For low-income women who have experienced domestic violence, homelessness is often the end of a long road paved with barriers to stability and self-sufficiency.  Only when these obstacles disappear will a path to safe and secure housing emerge for them.

One particularly shameful impediment to economic security for DV survivors has recently come to light during the national debate on health care reform.  As it turns out, DC has the dubious distinction of remaining among the handful of states that permit insurance companies to regard a history of domestic violence as a pre-existing condition for purposes of denying coverage .  As outrageous as this fact might seem in isolation, it is particularly disturbing when viewed in tandem with such additional barriers to stability as housing and employment discrimination.

Women who disclose their status as survivors already face a range of repercussions: loss of income, hostility from landlords wary of noise and property damage, and inaccessibility of safe and affordable housing.  Until federal health care reform is fully implemented in 2014, they may have one more reason to fear the consequences of seeking the help they need.  Fortunately, members of the DC Council have recently sought to remedy this injustice by proposing legislation to ban local insurers from denying coverage due to domestic violence history.  The Law Center enthusiastically supports this step towards greater economic security for survivors.

-Rachel Natelson, Domestic Violence Attorney

Wins and losses? It’s about way more than that.

We’ve just had two big wins for homeless children.

We won a great settlement in our lawsuit against a suburban Pittsburgh school district and the state of Pennsylvania, working in partnership with Education Law Center, a Pennsylvania group. The school district had tried to remove the children from school, claiming that they did not live in the district because they slept overnight in a different school district than the one they received services from during the day. Under our settlement, the state issued new guidelines making clear that homeless children with any substantial connection to a school district are legally entitled to immediate enrollment.

In a second Pennsylvania victory, again working with the Education Law Center, we won a preliminary injunction from a federal district court ordering a suburban school outside of Harrisburg to re-enroll a homeless youth.

But we also had a big disappointment in a federal court suit we filed in St. Petersburg, Florida, together with Southern Legal Counsel, challenging that city’s efforts to criminalize its homeless residents. We voluntarily dismissed two claims in our case following a prior unfavorable ruling by the judge. While we’re still considering an appeal on the claims previously dismissed, we’re obviously disappointed.

Still, it’s not just about the legal battles. (more…)

The following is a guest post from Paul Boden, executive director at Western Regional Advocacy Project in San Francisco:

People are nervous these days. Unemployment is at the highest level since the depression, foreclosure rates continue to rise despite massive bailouts to banks and lenders, and almost everyday another factory is closing or laying off workers.

The current proliferation of “nuisance crime laws” in public spaces is a manifestation of people’s fears about the increasing visibility of poverty. Unfortunately, adding to the litany of laws that criminalize poverty and homelessness isn’t going to change a thing.

Every night on the news are stories of people and families who never thought they would eat at a soup kitchen, get food from a pantry, or sleep in a shelter alongside the “regular homeless.” And yet, amazingly enough, across the country new laws are being proposed to protect the rest of “us” who still have a job, a business or a home from having to see this misery. (more…)


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