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2009 March - April

Minnesota Tenants Gain More Rights in Foreclosure Through Legislative Task Force Collaboration

By Lawrence R. McDonough

In Minnesota, legal aid attorneys led cities and counties, public housing authorities, tenant as well as landlord advocates, private attorneys, the banking and mortgage industries, affordable housing preservation and development advocates, and the utility industry to reach consensus on several recommendations that were passed by the state legislature and have greatly helped tenants affected by foreclosure. The consensus recommendations of a task force of active stakeholders ultimately became law with practically no changes.

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Multifaceted Strategies to Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline

By Ronald K. Lospennato

Many school districts have implemented misguided “zero-tolerance” policies that, by criminalizing students’ behavior, serve to deny them educational opportunities. The policies have a markedly disproportionate impact particularly on students of color and students with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s administrative complaint resolution system can be an effective tool to challenge suspensions and expulsions under zero-tolerance policies and keep students in school.

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ABDC's of Medicare for Low-Income Beneficiaries

By Elaine Wong Eakin & David Lipschutz

A federal entitlement program, Medicare provides health insurance for people who are at least 65 or have a long-term disability or end-stage renal disease. The program’s changes over the years directly affect low-income beneficiaries. The four parts of Medicare differ in terms of eligibility, enrollment, and benefits, and advocates must understand these nuances so that they can guide their clients through the complicated and often confusing program.

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Educational Stability for Students Without Homes

Realizing the Promise of McKinney-Vento

By Sally Dworak-Fisher

Homelessness frequently undermines children’s ability to succeed in school. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, with its broad definition of homelessness, seeks to ensure educational stability for children who are homeless—in particular by recognizing their right to remain in their “school of origin.” Many school districts, however, ignore the Act. Multifaceted advocacy to enforce it in several school districts in Maryland has met with considerable success.

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How Coalitions Can Help Legal Aid Attorneys Improve Access for Their Limited-English-Proficient Clients

By Leticia Camacho & Gillian Dutton

Legal aid attorneys are increasing serving limited-English-proficient (LEP) clients bringing claims of discrimination based upon an inability to access an array of government services, such as public benefits, law enforcement, and the courts. While traditional litigation approaches may offer remedies for individual clients, a systemic advocacy involves the creation of coalitions to push for language accessibility for LEP persons. A coalition of this type was formed in Washington State, and it has produced positive results for that state’s LEP population.

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The Inter-American Human Rights System

A Primer

By Caroline Bettinger-López

Poverty lawyers face an increasingly conservative judiciary and narrowing access to federal courts. Their advocacy, however, need not be limited to U.S. courts. Applying the human rights context, advocates can plead their clients’ cases before the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Bringing cases before OAS bodies not only will give clients a day in court but also may yield fresh arguments for legal and policy changes, hold state actors accountable, spur normative developments in U.S. courts, effect legislative changes, spark interest in an issue, or change the framing of a debate.

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Hospice Care

Benefits and Barriers for Low-Income Americans

By Mary T. Berthelot

Hospice care offers terminally ill people choices about their end-of-life care, such as the option to stay in their own homes. Especially for low-income people, accessing quality hospice care is not always easy, and the Medicare hospice benefit is the most common means of payment for such care. Advocates who understand the Medicare hospice care benefit and familiarize themselves with Medicaid hospice care programs, which tend to mirror the Medicare benefit, can help clients make the best choices about their end-of-life care.

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