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End of the CDC Eviction Moratorium is an Emergency that must be Addressed!

Written by admin on . Posted in Press Releases

****UPDATE****

Eek! A big old thunderstorm is rolling in. Anyone outdoors in DC please be safe! Press event will be rescheduled. DC City, STOP THE SWEEPS! People need their survival gear!

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The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and the National Organization for Women (NOW), along with advocates, tenants, and community leaders will gather on September 16 at 4:30 p.m. in front of the National Governors Association building to push for the prevention of anyone falling into homelessness. There will be a press conference at 5 p.m. at the same location at 444 North Capitol Street NW in DC with those facing eviction and community leaders urging immediate action to stop evictions.  

Flyer calling for a stop to evictions, including extending eviction moratoria and expediting rental assistance. Thursday, September 16, 2021 at 4:30pm outside the National Governors Association, 444 North Capitol St NW in Washington DC

“The homeless social service sector cannot accommodate any more people during this national health emergency with rising levels of COVID-19 in many communities. There are millions of dollars sitting on the table from the federal government and we need state and local officials to move mountains to get rental assistance out to those facing evictions,” said NCH executive director Donald Whitehead.  

In August, CNBC reported 11 million households are behind on their rent, but even if only 1 million get evicted the homeless shelters and services will collapse. Whitehead said that shelters have had to de-concentrate due to the pandemic and do not have the means of taking more people in to provide a safe place to stay while they look to find other housing options.  

We are urging the Governors to do whatever they can to stop any evictions into homelessness or they will see the huge rise in those living outside that Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, Austin, and Phoenix have seen over the last year.  

The Problem

As of Thursday, August 26, 2021, the federal moratorium on evictions related to COVID was lifted. As many as 35 million people in the United States, whose livelihoods have been negatively impacted by pandemic-related economic shut down, are at risk of homelessness. 

What’s more, there are hundreds of thousands of people and families who were placed into hotel rooms with CARES Act funding that is due to expire. Many of these folks will be forced back onto the streets, and into congregate shelters, with desperately increased risk of contracting COVID.

This is a massive economic and public health crisis, disproportionately affecting people of color. We must protect individuals and families – and especially our children and youth.

What we Know

Without safe housing, millions of people will be forced into congregate settings, increasing the risk of transmitting COVID-19, at a time when hospitals are operating at capacity.  

Lack of capacity at the state and local level, combined with bureaucratic red tape, has prevented up to 75% of aid from the Federal government from reaching renters and desperate to maintain their housing. 

Even though it is illegal, there is the danger that families forced back into homelessness risk losing custody of their children. Studies have shown overwhelmingly that safe housing has more to do with a child’s wellbeing and achievement than any other single factor. 

People who are unhoused face targeted enforcement and criminalization of life-sustaining activities. This over-criminalization separates families, eliminates employment options and further jeopardizes the mental and physical health of those affected.

What has been done

Through the CARES Act and the American Recovery Plan, the federal government has allocated over $85 Billion to housing and homelessness programs, including $25 billion specifically for Emergency Housing Vouchers. Many communities have used these recovery dollars to house folks temporarily in hotel and motel rooms, and further secure individual housing accommodations. But many of these programs are closing and people are being returned to congregate shelters or the streets.

The U.S. Treasury has provided explicit direction to local agencies distributing funds to allow renters and landlords to attest to their need without onerous documentation. The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Veterans Affairs (VA) have also taken action to protect and support vulnerable renter households. The Secretaries of HUD and Treasury, along with the Attorney General, wrote a letter to governors, mayors, county Executives, and chief Justices and state court administrators to issue their own moratoria, stay evictions while rental assistance applications process, and use ERA and State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to enhance tenant access to legal representation. 

But we know that landlords and eviction courts are eager to start processing evictions that have been held up. We know too that without legal representation, tenants overwhelmingly are not able to exercise their full rights to remain in housing.

What we Need

NOW and NCH are urging local and state elected officials to assign additional staff, enlist every housing non-profit in their communities to get this money to the people in need! Additionally, struggling Americans need:

  • Congress to pass legislation halting any eviction until ERA and Recovery applications are fully processed. 
  • Emergency Rental Assistance and other recovery programs should assume presumptive eligibility, instead of forcing long drawn out documentation of need. 
  • Landlords should get paid all back rent, either through direct payment and/or tax credit within 30 days.
  • There needs to be broad civic education on renter rights and eviction and homelessness prevention, in addition to ending and addressing the underlying causes of poverty and homelessness.

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The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), founded in 1981, is the oldest national organization focused on ending homelessness in America.  It is a national network of people currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to their mission of: To end and prevent homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected. NCH’s advocacy addresses the root causes of homelessness including lack of affordable housing, and partnering to write landmark legislation including the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. 


The National Organization for Women is the largest grassroots organization of feminist activists in the United States. NOW has hundreds of thousands of contributing supporters and members in chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since its founding in 1966, NOW’s purpose is to take action through intersectional grassroots activism to promote feminist ideals, lead societal change, eliminate discrimination, and achieve and protect the equal rights of all women and girls in all aspects of social, political, and economic life.

Position Statement on Sanctioned Encampments

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

There are cities throughout the United States moving displaced citizens onto public land typically in tents calling these locations “sanctioned encampments.” It is the position of the National Coalition for the Homeless that housing is a human right which is defined as a safe, affordable, accessible place to call a home. The issue is that by identifying a “sanctioned encampment” cities by default are declaring that there are “unsanctioned” encampments.  NCH does not believe that people who are experiencing a period of homelessness should become involved with law enforcement while trying to survive. 

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan
  • It should go without saying, but in the current divided society with words being distorted to become propaganda for those who want to make it illegal to be without housing, we must say that a tent is not a permanent solution to homelessness.  Secure, safe, accessible and affordable housing should be available to every family or single individual who requests a place to live. 
  • In a free society, a person should be able to congregate with others and peacefully assemble in groups of their choosing not forced to live where the municipal government decides with neighbors of their choosing.
  • No one should be forced by any authority or coerced to choose between a place with large numbers packed together or face criminalization for being homeless and living without shelter. Whether this is forcing someone into a congregate living facility that strips a person of their dignity or sending them to a government sanctioned site to pitch a tent, people living in the United States have always cherished the free will to not be told what neighborhood or municipality to reside in by government or government funded organizations.
  • Persons who refuse forced entry into any facility must not be categorized as “service resistant” and thereby face incarceration or exclusion from services. They should receive trauma informed care by trained professionals and be met with services they request not services forced on them. 
  • In the current environment in which municipal governments have largely given up on affordable housing solutions to homelessness and instead resorted to using law enforcement as the primary point of contact for those without housing, we see a broader trend in which the mere offer of any kind of assistance or social service is enough for local governments and law enforcement to justify penalty, arrest or a threat to withdraw a person’s liberty for those who reject the help.  We believe that sanctioned encampments will be used as permanent placements for local jurisdictions to avoid providing safe, affordable, accessible and permanent housing.
  • Sanctioned encampments are an inexpensive alternative to building housing or shelters that serve the needs of those individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness. 
  • Local governments should not act as nannies for adults and force them to a segregated section of town to live under a set of rules developed by strangers under threat of arrest if the taxpayer strays from the sanctioned encampment.  

Advocate Spotlight: Loh Defends the Unhoused in Cleveland with Support of Homeless Congress

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

By Zachary Bernstein, Summer 2021 NCH Civil Rights Intern

During our conversation, Loh asked me to imagine my family and I were victims of one of the wildfires currently ravaging the western part of the country. Imagine your documents—passports, birth certificates, etc.—were destroyed in the fire, Loh said, and you do not qualify for assistance based on your economic status. It takes a while to get those documents back, Loh pointed out, and meanwhile you have nothing, and no help—nothing more than people staying in shelters, or tents in the woods, or directly on the street. “This is how people fall into deep poverty,” Loh told me.

Cleveland is one of the most historic cities in the United States, Loh said, and yet they allow nearly half the children in the city (46.1% in 2019) to live below the poverty line. That means one of every two children does not have enough to eat and goes to bed hungry nearly every night in Cleveland. This is clearly not the fault of each individual person, Loh emphasized again and again, but a failure of the system to keep people from slipping into poverty. 

Loh, a community activist in Cleveland, Ohio, works with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Homeless Congress, and with the Poor People’s Campaign to amplify the voices of those struggling with housing.  Loh has experienced homelessness for the past ten years. We spoke for just ninety minutes, but over the course of that time, Loh painted me a portrait of a system of shelters, service providers, and government bureaucracy that has failed its most vulnerable citizens at every level. Having dealt with activism and struggling as a person experiencing homelessness and as an activist, Loh understands the ins and outs of this system in great detail—Loh understands why it has allowed its citizens to live on the street, why it has allowed its shelters to fall into disrepair, and why it has repeatedly stonewalled efforts to help these people. But most importantly of all, Loh understands how to thwart that system.

To Loh, the most important principle of organizing for the homeless is that you cannot solely organize people experiencing homelessness. The reason people are homeless, Loh points out, is because they do not have resources, they are already overwhelmed with their own economic and personal issues. In addition, Loh observes, homeless people often do not want to go out of their way to let people know they are homeless. Loh believes that organizing for homeless advocacy must involve targeting those who are housed as well as those with resources and political will. A key is to target the powerful and those who have decision-making authority to enable the movement to thrive and achieve its goals. 

In one story Loh told, a class at the Cleveland Institute of Art wanted to start an artistic outreach project for the homeless community, but had several eye-opening experiences attempting to gain access to people staying in shelters, realizing the extent of the systemic failure experienced by the homeless. Working with Loh and other members of the Homeless Congress, one student in the class changed his project to stage mock groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting ceremonies that included testimonials from homeless people about their experiences in shelters. The project got publicity in newspapers, and Loh recalls how people were amazed at the stories that shelter residents had to tell. This is merely one example, but it demonstrates the power of pairing the knowledge of people who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness (such as Loh) with the power, time, and resources of those who are not. “You have to be able to organize people outside the system,” Loh emphasizes. Loh is a fixture at the County Council meetings railing against the lack of oversight of the shelters and services by the funders.  By respecting the resources and points of view each other brings to the table, we can build activist movements which have power and influence and are also built around those with lived experience and knowledge of the system.

In speaking about the importance of a systemic understanding, Loh emphasized that it is not enough to merely understand that the police do bad things to the homeless community, or that the justice system is broken, it is necessary to grasp the wider scope of the problem, to understand how systems interlock with one another to produce the problem. This is especially important, Loh says, because homeless people do not have the time or energy to think about why the system does not work. Several of Loh’s stories from the field have demonstrated how the system has failed the homeless community. The story of the art class attempting to reach out to the homeless community is especially demonstrative—at every step, Loh related, the government and service providers would delay or divert their attempts to reach out. When they wanted to create a sculpture for a shelter, they were told that the sculpture had to be metal because, a director told them, the people in the shelter were crazy, angry, stupid, and violent, and would destroy the sculpture in a short time. The reduction and mischaracterization of an entire community based on a dangerous stereotype is just one example of the pervasive and ingrained misunderstanding of the issue of homelessness.

Loh has extensively documented the mistreatment and horrible conditions at shelters with some amount of creatively particularly in the use of photography and poetry.  The shelter Loh stays at, which Loh refers to as “The HELL”. In a series of photos and captions, Loh shows insects on the floor of the only area the homeless people are allowed to eat, mold growing on the showers, and broken toilet stall doors. In a poem, Loh describes the inadequate facilities at the shelter which were originally built as two business buildings, and now involves lots of stairs, heavy doors to navigate. Loh characterizes her experiences as painful due to the injuries sustained from the unsafe environment of the shelter. Loh views these problems as a direct result of systemic failure, a system which causes Loh and thousands of others physical pain because of their lack of care. Loh described to me the network of service providers and government agencies in a dizzying flurry of acronyms. These agencies, which purport themselves to be non-profits, have no real intention of helping homeless people, Loh told me, they simply play politics to make more money. “Society produces homeless people,” Loh often says, because there is simply a lack of care and effort put into solving the problem, and these seemingly impenetrable systems of bureaucracy and capital foreclose any attempt at undermining it.

But that does not mean that there are no ways of doing so—in fact, Loh has successfully staged resistance from the inside. On one occasion, Loh was offered housing in response to complaints about the quality of the shelter. When they offered it, Loh asked if they could give 200 units because there are other people with problems like Loh’s—but they refused. Loh observed how demonstrative this experience was of the systemic failure: “You claim you are an organization to help homeless people and especially those with mental health struggles, but you have no real intention to help them.” But Loh also shows us how the system can be undermined—Loh’s request of 200 housing units is a perfect example of a way in which we can take a stand in spite of the failure of the system. Loh’s tireless dedication to solving the problem of homelessness for all and keen focus on understanding the very roots of that problem can inspire us to think in new ways about homelessness and the systems that perpetuate it. After all, if we can understand what causes the problem, we are one step closer to finding its solution.

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