On October 18, the Homeless Appellate Rights Project (HARP) presented its new pro bono project for BLS students interested in becoming involved in homeless rights advocacy. To introduce the project, the group hosted Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Homeless Rights Project, to discuss the history of homelessness in New York.
The modern homelessness era, Goldfein explained, followed World War II, but did not truly begin until a combination of events in the mid-1970s forced people from their homes. As New York City neared bankruptcy, a rise in rents surpassed the welfare shelter allowance, and several mental institutions closed, which pushed both single adults and families onto the streets.
However, the increase of a homeless population came with a silver lining, said Goldfein. He described the circumstances of three major cases—Callahan v. Carey, Eldridge v. Carey, and McCain v. Koch—that ultimately distinguished New York City as the only location in the country that considers shelter a legal human right.
“The success of those cases was only the first step in aiding homeless New Yorkers,” said Goldfein. “Many of them still choose not to enter homeless shelters for a variety of reasons, and there are still many obstacles to shelter that homeless people face.” Goldfein urged students to become involved with HARP to advocate for those still on the street.
HARP aims to fill the gap in current anti-poverty advocacy. While family homelessness is at an all-time high in New York City, resources remain very limited. Beile Lindner ’13, head of the HARP Pro Bono Project E-board, said, “[Homeless] families need help obtaining life-sustaining shelter more than ever, and law students are in an excellent position to help them meet the high evidentiary burden that the city forces them to meet in order to access the system.”