The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty

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National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
FounderMaria Foscarinis
Founded atWashington, D.C.
Type501(c)3 non-profit organization
Headquarters2000 M St NW Suite 210, Washington, DC 20036

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) is an American nonprofit organization that uses the power of the law to end and prevent homelessness, through training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education. It was founded in 1989 by Maria Foscarinis and is based in Washington, D.C.[1]


In the mid-1980s, NLCHP's founder, Maria Foscarinis, was a lawyer working at Sullivan & Cromwell when she volunteered to represent homeless families on a pro bono basis. After seeing the impact of first-rate legal advocacy on the lives of homeless people, Maria left the firm with a new goal; to end homelessness in America[2]. In 1985, she established and directed the Washington, DC office of the National Coalition for the Homeless. She directed campaigns to enact federal legislation to aid the homeless and went on to become an architect of the 1987 McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the first major federal legislation to address homelessness.[3]

In 1989, she established the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center). Foscarinis writes regularly about legal and policy issues affecting homeless and poor persons, and is frequently in national and local media. She is a graduate of Columbia University School of Law, Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Barnard College.[3]

Timeline of Major NLCHP Accomplishments[edit]

1989- Organization was founded and produced a report on the McKinney-Vento Act, the first federal legislation on homelessness.[4]

1990- Filed a federal lawsuit against the Social Security Administration, citing failure to reach out to disabled homeless people, 50% of whom were potentially eligible for benefits. As a result, the SSA launched an outreach program educating disabled homeless people about their benefits.[4]

1994- Lampkin v. D.C.: the Law Center won a federal appeals court ruling establishing that homeless children have an enforceable right to education.[4]

1998- The Law Center co-organized "Meeting America's Housing Needs," an initiative to promote the right to housing in the U.S., with support from HUD. Helped to secure an additional $152 million in HUD funding for HUD-McKinney Act programs providing more shelter, permanent housing, and supportive services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.[4]

2004- NLCHP v. Suffolk County: the Law Center won a federal class action, upholding the right of 1,400 homeless children to go to school.[4]

2006- The Law Center and allies won a class action lawsuit, providing emergency housing for people made homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Successfully advocated for the 2005 Violence Against Women Act to expand the federal housing rights for domestic violence survivors living in public and subsidized housing.[4]

2010- A.E. v. Carlynton School District: the Law Center partnered with the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and won a favorable settlement, upholding education rights of four children and reforming policy for 38,000 homeless children.[4]

2012- The Law Center's "Disaster Edition" manual of education rights helped children displaced by Hurricane Sandy to stay in school and receive meals and basic health care.[4]

Big Hart v. Dallas: The Law Center, in co-counsel with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, successfully struck down a law preventing faith-based groups from offering food to homeless people.[4]

2014- Published No Safe Place, the Law Center's 11th report on the criminalization of homelessness, examining 187 cities. There were over 20,500 downloads from its publication in July to the end of the year.[4]

2015- Martin v Boise (formerly Bell v Boise)- Challenged a city law in Boise, Idaho that criminalized sleeping in public. The Law Center also advocated with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to support their position, and it filed a strong legal brief in their case, spurring other cities across the country to change their laws on sleeping in public.[4]

Norton v. City of Springfield- Successfully challenged the city's ban on begging in public as a violation of free speech rights.[4]

2016- Advocated for people living in encampments by providing assistance in Cobine v. City of Eureka (CA) and Buker v. City of Akron (OH); helped plaintiffs win a court order requiring Akron to provide due process to homeless citizens in encampments. [4]


Callahan v. Carey: Group of homeless men successfully sued New York City and NY in an effort to require the government to provide them with necessary shelter and food, citing a state constitutional provision for support. [5]

Koster v. Webb: Plaintiffs sued the New York City government, requiring them to provide shelter to homeless people, citing a federal statute for support. [5]

Martin v. Boise (formerly Bell v. Boise): The Department of Justice issued a statement of interest in Bell vs. Boise, challenging the City of Boise's laws that prohibited sleeping and/or camping in public spaces. It was argued as a violation of the homeless people's constitutional rights and that criminalizing sleeping in public was a violation of the eighth amendment, with respect to cruel and unusual punishment. [6]

Cobine v. City of Eureka: This case centered on the City of Eureka's anti-camping ordinance that resulted in evictions and confiscation of personal property of homeless people. 11 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the City of Eureka and marked this criminalization of camping in public spaces as a violation of the eighth amendment, with respect to cruel and unusual punishment. [5]

Allen v. City of Pomona: This case centered on the City of Pomona's policy in seizing and destroying homeless people's property. Fourteen homeless plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the city of Pomona and claimed that this was a violation of the fourth and Fourteenth amendment. [5]

Norton v. City of Springfield: The Law Center successfully challenged a Springfield law that placed restrictions on panhandling, specifically limiting "vocal pleas for immediate donations of cash". Using Reed v. Town of Gilbert, the Law Center was able to argue how this law was discriminatory, as it sought to place limits on speech. [5]


McKinney Vento Forum

Every year the NLCHP holds the McKinney-Vento Awards. These awards recognize individuals and organizations that have helped provide solutions to end homelessness and poverty. The McKinney-Vento awards are named after Congressman Stewart B. McKinney and Congressman Bruce F. Vento.[7]

Stewart B. McKinney Award Honorees: Andrew Cuomo, John Grisham, Bruce Vento, Tipper Gore, Senator Jack Reed, Richard E. Schaden, Sandra Lee, Senator Al Franken

Bruce F. Vento Award Honorees: Joseph McColley, Gregory Stamas, Judge Jay Zainey, Congresswoman Judy Biggert, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman Keith Ellison, Senator John Tassoni, Jr., Senator Patty Murray


Housing not Handcuffs Provides an overview of criminalization measures in effect across the country and looks at trends in the criminalization of homelessness, based on an analysis of the laws in 187 cities since 2006. It also analyzes trends in local enforcement, describe federal opposition to criminalization, and offers alternative policies to criminalization laws and practices.[8]

Alone with a home This report reviews the state of current law in 12 issue areas that affect the lives and future prospects of unaccompanied homeless youth in all 50 U.S. states and 6 territories.[9]

Human Right to Housing Report Card This assesses the current level of US compliance with the human right to housing and considers policy at all levels of government, as it relates to homelessness, including its prevention.[10]

Media Coverage[edit]

In 1986, Maria Foscarinis was featured in a New York Times article, focusing on her work in the National Coalition for the Homeless. A couple of years later, Maria founded the National Law Center and the LA Times wrote a major piece about her decision to leave her corporate law job and found an organization to combat homelessness. Maria has been featured in 2 NPR articles, one of which was an interview focusing on panhandling legislation across the country and the other article discussing the criminalization of homelessness. Maria has also been quoted in a TIME article about violence against homeless people and interviewed by Invisible People.[3]

The Law Center has been featured in the New York Times, Washington post, Street Sense, Daily Kos and The Contributor:


  1. ^ "NLCHP".
  2. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b c "NLCHP Staff".
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "NLCHP 24th Anniversary Report".
  5. ^ a b c d e "NLCHP Litigation Manual".
  6. ^ "Department of Justice Bell vs. Boise".
  7. ^ "NLCHP McKinney Vento Awards".
  8. ^ "Housing not Handcuffs".
  9. ^ "Alone Without a Home".
  10. ^ "Housing Report Card".

External links[edit]

See also[edit]