History and Mission
|"Lawyers have power: power to challenge injustice, to change society, to help those in need, and to make lasting contributions to the betterment of our communities and our world."|
Honorable Dennis Archer, ABA President , 2003-2004; Mayor of Detroit, MI, 1994-2001
In 1991, The Commission on Homelessness and Poverty was established by the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association (ABA). The Commission is charged with the following tasks: (1) Educating members of the bar and the public about legal and other problems of poor and homeless people and ways in which lawyers can assist in solving or ameliorating them; (2) training lawyers in areas needed to provide pro bono legal assistance to homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless; (3) working with all ABA entities on issues arising in their jurisdiction that affect poor and homeless people; and (4) engaging in such further activities as may be necessary and proper for the fulfillment of these responsibilities, including working with state and federal executive branches and legislative bodies concerning matters relating to the poor and homeless. These tasks are carried out by one staff attorney and 13 volunteer members appointed by the ABA President.
In 1986, the ABA passed a resolution expressing the ABA ’s support of legislation and programs which protected the rights of homeless people, created housing and other programs to aid homeless people in their battle for self-sufficiency, and urged pro bono legal representation of homeless clients. To implement this resolution, the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities created the Representation of the Homeless Project, which in turn provided technical assistance to bar association pro bono homeless programs, educated the profession about homelessness and the needs of homeless people, and drafted policy for the ABA House of Delegates (the ABA ’s legislative body). Building on the work of the Project, in 1991, the ABA created the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty to demonstrate the Association’s commitment to addressing the legal needs of homeless and impoverished people.
In carrying out its mission, the Commission provides policy-based advocacy on behalf of homeless and impoverished people. The Commission, through the ABA Governmental Affairs Office, works with Congress to develop and fund programs that will address the causes of homelessness and poverty in the United States , as well as to enact laws that will protect and provide for those in desperate need of assistance.
The Commission is committed to educating the bar and the public about homelessness and poverty and the ways in which the legal community and advocates can assist those in need. To achieve this goal, the Commission drafts publications and conducts training sessions across the country to equip the legal community to advocate on behalf of people who are homeless or poor. The Commission also coordinates with national, state and local advocates and organizations to facilitate the exchange of information and resources.