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Take Action: How Funders Can Protect Immigrant Families from Poverty, Hunger, and Homelessness

Image: Getty/Bryan R. Smith

At the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the “Law Center”), we believe that adequate housing is a fundamental human right, and must be accessible to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, or immigration status. Together with hundreds of other national and local organizations, the Law Center is participating in the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign against the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed Public Charge Rule.

The proposed rule is impractical and dangerous as it will likely result in millions of hardworking families forgoing critical, life-saving benefits, leading to housing insecurity and homelessness, negatively impacting both immigrants and the communities in which they live.

What effects will the proposed Public Charge Rule have on housing and homelessness?

The proposed Public Charge Rule penalizes immigrants seeking permanent resident status for using certain public benefits—including Section 8, public housing, and food stamps—forcing non-citizens to choose between accessing benefits and maintaining their immigration status. But, due in part to an earlier leaked draft which had an even broader list of affected benefits, the chilling effect of this rule is even larger, with reports that some immigrants are avoiding all benefits, even private or faith-based disaster emergency services, for fear it would affect their status. The Law Center stands united with our partners against the proposed rule—even if the direct housing impact of the rule was reduced to zero—because the proposed rule will force the millions of families in the United States with at least one non-citizen member to forego critical assistance, which means family budgets will be tightened, directly impacting the amount of money a family has for housing.

How can philanthropy engage in protecting immigrant families?

Funders, along with anyone concerned about homelessness in our communities, can and should be part of the conversation, both with the public and with the government. The Law Center and the National Housing Law Project have created a number of resources to make it easy to learn more about the rule and what you can do:  

  • Learn the basics of the proposed public charge rule’s impact on families seeking and using federal housing subsidies by checking out our short FAQs or watching our Public Charge and Housing Webinar. Another great resource is the Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees Public Charge page focused on the issues from a philanthropic lens.

  • For a more in-depth discussion, see our revised “Technical” Fact Sheet ;

  • Join the public conversation by using our Public Charge and Housing Talking Points and promote awareness on social media, using #ProtectFamilies—for examples of housing and homelessness related-tweets, see/follow us @nlchphomeless. Philanthropy can also use its voice to oppose the proposed public charge through op-eds, public statements, and blog posts.

  • Submit comments by December 10 using our housing/homelessness-focused template comment letter (available by emailing [email protected]) to explain the impact of the proposed rule on both those you serve and on the philanthropy community.  The Public Charge Rule would decrease federal funding going to communities, diminishing the impact that existing philanthropic dollars are having in ending homelessness as new families are forced to choose between rent and other necessities each month. Philanthropy can and should join the campaign to #protectfamilies by submitting comments to DHS by December 10, and spreading the word to their peers to do the same. Submitting public comments does not constitute lobbying and is a critical way for philanthropy to take a stand and use its voice. For more information on this, visit the Alliance for Justice’s page on submitting comment around this issue.

  • Provide capacity for grantees to advocate on behalf of immigrant families and organize opposition to the proposed rule.

As funders know well, ensuring access to adequate housing and other basic subsistence benefits is an investment in ensuring all people have an opportunity to contribute to our society that returns dividends to everyone. Now is the time to use your voice, make your comments known to the government, and spread the word through your networks to help ensure everyone has a safe, adequate, dignified place to call home!

(Image credit: Getty/Bryan R. Smith)


Staff_-_Eric_Tars.jpgEric Tars serves as the Law Center's senior attorney, focusing on human rights and children's rights programs. In his human rights capacity, he works with homelessness and housing advocacy organizations to train and strategically utilize human rights as a component of their work. In his youth rights capacity, he works to protect homeless students' rights to education and advocates for homeless youth and families through trainings, litigation, and policy advocacy at the national and local levels. You can find him on Twitter here.


We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

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Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

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