Our History

When modern homelessness first emerged in the late 1970s, hundreds of thousands of people experiencing homelessness were forced to fend for themselves with little emergency assistance from governments and communities. The roots of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) begin in 1981 when the founder, Robert Hayes, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a man experiencing homelessness in New York City. The lawsuit was settled out of court, and people experiencing homelessness won the right to shelter in New York City.

The Coalition for the Homeless in New York City formed as one of the early community-based coalitions. With the development of other local and statewide homeless coalitions, the National Coalition for the Homeless was formed in 1982, incorporated in 1984, and was recognized as a tax-exempt, not for profit organization under the 501(c) (3) internal revenue code in 1988. For 40 years, NCH has been a leader on the forefront of emerging issues relating to poverty and homelessness.

Throughout NCH’s history, our homeless-led advocacy has worked to create lasting local solutions to the national problem of homelessness. We have long advocated for addressing the root causes of homelessness, including the lack of affordable housing, through policy advocacy, grassroots organizing, and public education (dispelling negative stereotypes and preserving the civil rights of people experiencing homelessness).


National Coalition for the Homeless was the first national advocacy organization to

  • involve homeless/formerly homeless people in leadership positions.
  • build a national movement to end homelessness led by people who have been unhoused.
  • address the educational needs/rights of homeless children.
  • tackle Veteran homelessness and housing insecurity.
  • convene a national homelessness conference.


In addition, NCH staff has helped draft federal, state, and local legislation, such as