From our CEO: Attending the Housing, Not Handcuffs Conference and Advocating for #HCYA

Claas Ehlers

July 13, 2018

In the mid 1980s several heroes of the fight against homelessness emerged. One of them was our founder, Karen Olson. Another was Maria    Foscarinis, who was an architect of the McKinney-Vento Act, the most important legislation relating to homelessness ever written.

Each year, Maria’s organization—the National Law Center on    Homelessness and Poverty    (NLCHP)—hosts a conference    called    “Housing, not Handcuffs.” 

Claas Ehlers & Maria Foscarinis

As allies, we regularly participate in each other’s national conferences, and late last month I spent time in Washington    DC    with other leaders in the field, discussing and exploring ways to take the burden of    the    law off people experiencing homelessness.

I witnessed    some tremendous keynotes and sessions, but the    issue at hand was most    clearly articulated    by    the advocate Ibrahim Malik, who is formerly homeless: “Homeless people are not the problem; the problem is the problem.” 

Not having    a    home is not illegal, yet people—singles and families    alike—are repeatedly subject to law enforcement simply because they are homeless.

I took advantage of my time in    DC    by    also    meeting    with several other organizations, government bodies, and the news media.    I    even    visited six congressional offices—all of which have Family Promise Affiliates in their district—to discuss the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA).

I took pictures at each office of something iconic of the district and the state—can you identify   them?

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Why is the HCYA important—take this one example from Frederick County, MD:    Last year, with 40,000 students in its school districts, 1,000 experienced homeless, 200 of whom were unaccompanied youth.    HCYA will enable us    to    properly count them and their    families,    while also prioritizing them based on vulnerability.


Claas    with    his    two oldest children.

Our own Kat Lilley spoke powerfully about the issue a few weeks earlier in testimony before the Untied States House Committee on Financial Services.

It is critical    that we continue    addressing    policies that impact low-income families at risk of homelessness. We can provide shelter, case management, and community—and we do that very well—but we also have to change    policy    so families have more opportunity and security.  

Finally, my two oldest kids are in DC this summer—so    we enjoyed    dinner at an Indian restaurant in Adams Morgan.

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