Job o' the Day: Staff Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center in New Orleans!

The Southern Poverty Law Center seeks an attorney to join its New Orleans, Louisiana office.  The Center is a national non-profit organization dedicated to reducing bigotry and oppression through education and litigation.  Currently, the Center’s areas of legal advocacy include juvenile justice, immigrant justice, education reform, LGBT rights, and combating hate groups.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, we work toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.

To learn more about the position, check out the listing at PSLawNet!

 

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Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness

by Kristen Pavón

Today, I attended a free webinar hosted by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty on their 2011 report on the criminalization of homelessness in the U.S.

Here are some of the highlights:

Types of Criminalization Measures

  • Making it illegal to do things in public that people must do — for example, sleeping, sitting and storing personal belongings.
  • Selective enforcement against homeless persons of seemingly neutral laws — loitering, jaywalking, etc.
  • Restrictions on sharing food with homeless persons in public places.

Survey Results

  • 73 percent of respondents (reported arrests, citations, or both for public urination/defecation
  • 55 percent of respondents reported arrests, citations, or both for camping/sleeping in public
  • 55 percent of respondents reported arrests, citations, or both for loitering
  • 53 percent of respondents reported arrests, citations, or both for panhandling
  • 20 percent of respondents reported arrests, citations, or both for public storage of belongings
  • 7 percent increase since 2009 in begging/panhandling in 188 cities
  • 10 percent increase since 2009 in loitering in public places in 188 cities

Alternatives to Criminalization

  • Temporary [legal] encampments
  • Increasing public restrooms
  • Clinics to help homeless persons apply for various forms of identification
  • Leverage housing resources in local communities with an effective framework (see below – 100,000 Homes Campaign)
  • Outreach programs that connect homeless individuals with providers to divert them from the criminal justice system.

100,000 Homes Campaign

This campaign, which is setting out to house 100,000 homeless individuals by July 2013, provides local communities with an organized system to leverage their housing resources to house homeless individuals. The model is pretty simple but is great because it supports the locality throughout the process.

  1. Build a local team.
  2. Clarify demand (this means, among other things, creating a registry of the homeless population in your community).
  3. Line up supply.
  4. Move people into housing.
  5. Help people stay housed (through ongoing supportive services).

Misc. Nuggets from Webinar

  • Homeless persons face barriers to employment, housing, public benefits and healthcare as a result of receiving a citation.
  • Criminalization measures do not address root causes of homelessness
  • On average, it costs $6,100 a year to house a homeless person in permanent supportive housing.
  • Costs of shelter, jail, and hospital services: $6,600; $25,500; $35,000; and $146, 730, respectively (based on Utah data).
  • Criminalization of homelessness can violate homeless individuals’ civil rights, including first, eighth and fourth amendment rights.

The webinar and slides will be available on the National Law Center’s website. Also, you can download the 2011 report on the criminalization of homelessness (which includes a 151-page advocacy manual!!) here.

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Above or Below the Line: Poor? Near Poor? Low-Income? Kinda Poor?

by Kristen Pavón

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a wonderfully relaxing Thanksgiving with lots of friends and family! After family-time, sleeping off severe gluttony, getting my bar card in the mail, and a bit of shopping, I’m back on track over here. :)

You may already know about the new measure of poverty — the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) — that the Census Bureau released earlier this month. If you didn’t know, read this from HuffPost and this from the Census Bureau.

The new measurement reveals higher overall poverty rates and higher rates for some groups, including Whites, Asians and Hispanics, individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 and those 65 or older.

However, SPM rates are lower for children.

In my opinion, a poverty measure like this, while not perfect, needed to be implemented decades ago. The original measure, established in the 1950s, had not changed much in the 60 years.

The original measure is based on the costs of feeding a family of four. Because, according to this model, food should cost one-third of your income, multiplying that number by 3 gives us the poverty threshold. Anyone making less than that number, is considered “poor.” Anyone falling anywhere above that number is not.

This measure does not take inflation (other than for food), regional costs, actual food costs, various incomes and health care costs into account. The new SPM is a step in the right direction in using a measurement that is more reflective of our current economy and reality.

Anyway, I’ve digressed from what I actually wanted this post to be about… Last week, the New York Times published an article on the new poverty rates according to SPM and how a contentious debate has been set off about how to describe families that are technically above the poverty line but still struggle to make ends meet.

The findings [on the "near poor"], which the Census Bureau plans to release on Monday, have already set off a contentious debate about how to describe such families: struggling, straitened, economically insecure?

Robert Rector, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, rejects the phrase “near poverty,” arguing that it conjures levels of dire need like hunger and homelessness experienced by a minority even among those actually poor.

“I don’t have any objection to this measure if you use the term ‘low-income,’ ” he said. “But the emotionally charged terms ‘poor’ or ‘near poor’ clearly suggest to most people a level of material hardship that doesn’t exist. It is deliberately used to mislead people.” . . .

[Bruce Meyer, an economist at the University of Chicago said] “I do think this is a better measure, but I wouldn’t say that 100 million people are on the edge of starvation or anything close to that[.]”

I’ve always struggled with the arbitrariness of categorizing a family as “poor” or not poor. Poverty in the U.S. looks different than it does in other countries — and just because “100 million people [aren't] on the edge of starvation” doesn’t mean they aren’t “poor.”

What do you think of the new Supplemental Poverty Measure? How about this categorization debate?

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Job o' the Day: Staff Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Miami!

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is looking for a staff attorney with a strong commitment to social justice to work collaboratively with FYI’s directors and staff in Miami, Florida.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) works to improve educational outcomes and reduce the imprisonment of children by advocating for educational and juvenile justice reform.  SPLC works to limit policies and practices that push children into the juvenile justice system; end school disciplinary practices that exclude students from public schools; stop the abuse and neglect of children in the juvenile justice system; and ensure that all child-serving systems are humane.

The staff attorney will develop and execute campaigns to reform school discipline practices that push children into the juvenile justice system. The responsibilities of the staff attorney will include litigating education cases, including class actions, and taking other legal action to protect children’s right to a quality education. In addition, the staff attorney will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with stakeholders, parents, elected officials, the faith-based community, and other advocacy organizations to reform Florida’s juvenile justice and educational systems.

If you’re interested, check out the listing at PSLawNet

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UK is Searching for Solutions to the Consequences of Deep Legal Aid Funding Cuts

by Kristen Pavón

The Guardian reported yesterday that the legal profession is bracing itself for an increase in pro se litigants as a result of the legal aid budget cuts, which are set for 2013.

. . . [W]ith £350m set to be lopped off the legal aid budget in 2013, removing funding for areas such as divorce and housing cases, turning up to court without a brief is about to become a lot more common.

A report on litigants-in-person to be published on Friday acknowledges this, setting out measures for minimising the chaos that will be caused by the coming surge of “DIY lawyers”.

Here are a few of the solutions lawyers are considering to address this surge:

  • Prevention of legal battles through public legal education
  • Increased reliance on and use of experienced volunteers, including law students, unemployed lawyers and retired lawyers
  • Creating a more formalized pro bono structure in law firms (rely on peer pressure rather than a pro bono mandate)

Pretty general suggestions if you ask me… Read more here.

Thoughts?

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Job o' the Day: Staff Attorney Position at the Legal Aid Society of DC!

The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia is looking for an attorney for its Domestic Violence / Family Law Unit.

The Legal Aid Society was established in 1932 to “provide legal aid and counsel to indigent persons in civil law matters and to encourage measures by which the law may better protect and serve their needs.” Legal Aid is the oldest general civil legal services program in the District of Columbia.

The Staff Attorney will handle a caseload of family law cases, including custody, child support, protection orders, and divorce matters; interview prospective clients; participate in community outreach; and engage in systemic reform efforts.

To find out more and to learn how to apply, check out the listing at PSLawNet!

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Job o' the Day: Housing Discrimination Attorney with Vermont Legal Aid!

Vermont Legal Aid is looking for a full-time, one-year contract attorney in their Burlington office to assist in carrying out their anti-discrimination work.

Responsibilities for this position include representing individual and organizational housing discrimination victims in federal and State courts and in administrative hearings; testifying before State and municipal planning and zoning entities; and limited community legal education and committee work.

Vermont’s most common forms of housing discrimination occur on the prohibited bases of race/color, national origin, ethnicity, families with children, and disability. Help Vermont fight housing discrimination!

If you’re interested, check out the listing at PSLawNet!

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Job o' the Day: NY Urban Justice Center Youth Project is Looking for a Director

The Peter Cicchino Youth Project (PCYP) in the Urban Justice Center is a legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education project that focuses on the legal needs of homeless and street-involved lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) young people (up through age 24) in New York City. PYCP is looking for experienced attorneys for its Project Director position.

PCYP works to interrupt the cycles of poverty and criminalization that prevent LGBTQQ youth from living fulfilling, enriching lives. We advocate for LGBTQQ young people living in poverty on a wide range of issues, including safe and affirming access to shelter, obtaining lawful immigration status, public benefits, accurate identification documents, and discrimination.

The Project Director is responsible for fundraising and managing a $400,000 annual budget, and will represent PCYP to the broader Urban Justice Center, the media, and the public. The Project Director works with program staff to coordinate PCYP’s legal services, to ensure that our clients receive high quality legal representation. The Project Director, along with program staff, will continue to identify systemic priorities and to develop PCYP’s capacity to take direction from the communities we serve.

If you’re interested, see the listing at PSLawNet!

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Job o' the Day: Serve the Underserved in Atlanta with The Georgia Law Center for the Homeless

The Georgia Law Center for the Homeless is looking for a staff attorney to join in providing legal services to Atlanta’s most vulnerable populations. GLC serves its clients in a holistic manner, helping them move toward self-sufficiency.

The staff attorney will represent clients in civil legal proceedings, primarily in family law, housing law and public benefits. Also, the attorney will conduct outreach to area shelters and homeless service providers.

If you’re a member of the Georgia bar, check out the complete listing at PSLawNet!

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Florida's Welfare Drug Testing Law Challenged, Ruling on Hold

by Kristen Pavón

With serious fourth amendment concerns surrounding Florida’s law requiring drug testing for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, on behalf of a Navy veteran, challenged the law earlier this month.

Yesterday, a federal judge held off on ruling whether to grant an injunction against the Department of Children and Families, the agency charged with performing the drug testing. For now, the law still stands.

The 35-year-old Navy veteran and father of a 4-year-old son, applied to Florida’s TANF this year. “He met all of the program’s eligibility requirements but was denied assistance after he refused to take the drug test as required by a law that took effect in July. He then sued the department, DCF.”

The Florida American Civil Liberties Union contends Lebron (the plaintiff) and other welfare applicants are being forced to forfeit their constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure by submitting to the drug testing. They argued that the program has been in existence since 1996 and never required the test before.

A similar state law in Michigan requiring drug testing for welfare applicants was struck down in 2003. The federal appellate court that issued that ruling said it violated citizens’ constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

ACLU attorney Maria Kayanan – Lebron’s lead counsel – told the judge in the Orlando courtroom Monday that the Florida law creates a “Fourth-Amendment-free zone.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Read the rest of the story at the Miami Herald.

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