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The annual McKinney-Vento Awards Ceremony showcases some of the nation’s most distinguished advocates and leaders who are taking a stand against the injustice of homelessness and poverty in America. It is also a major fundraising event for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, founded in 1989. This year’s McKinney-Vento Awards ceremony was held on Oct.r 24 at the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel.

The McKinney-Vento Awards was created by the National Law Center to pay tribute to Congressman Stewart B. McKinney, who sponsored the bill, and Congressman Bruce F. Vento, who authored it. The McKinney-Vento Act was the first of its kind providing comprehensive federal assistance for the variety of homeless victims. Signed into law in 1987, the bill supports programs offering a continuum of care and establishes the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty was founded by lawyer Maria Foscarinis, who left a high-powered career in New York City to begin providing pro bono services for homeless families. Because she recognized the need for defending and protecting the benefits promised under the McKinney-Vento Act, Foscarinis founded it. As the National Law Center has grown, they have remained vigilant, going to court whenever necessary and advocating successfully for new protections for people facing homelessness.

In addition to defending the law, the nonprofit organization’s programs have grown to include preventing homelessness through training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.

At the ceremony, Foscarinis mentioned the positive impact the McKinney-Vento Act made in the lives of countless homeless children, victims of domestic violence, and homeless individuals since 1987. However, she also described her concern over the increasing attempts by local and state governments to criminalize survival acts typical of homeless people. Criminal charges further reduce homeless people’s employment and housing eligibility. This was why the NLCHP recently began the Housing Not Handcuffs campaign.

“Over 600 organizations and individuals have endorsed our campaign. You can too.” Foscarinis enthusiastically told a crowd of attendees and donors.

Sue Vento, wife of the late congressman, said she wanted to honor her late husband.

“As an educator, I was stunned to see housing insecurity among students and the negative effects,” Vento said before presenting the 2017 Bruce F. Vento Award to Senn Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), who delivered an inspiring speech that included concern for the negative way people perceive the homeless.