Sargent Shriver National Center on Law and Poverty

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law (Shriver Center) provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies to secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. The organization achieves this mission through two interrelated programs: (1) Advocacy and (2) Advocate Resources & Training.

Through Advocacy, the Shriver Center develops and advances policies that respond directly to the needs of people in poverty. This advocacy addresses a broad agenda, including promoting access to fair housing, affordable health care, child care, education equity, employment and training, civil rights, criminal justice, and women’s law, and utilizes a variety of strategies including impact litigation, policy development and advocacy, and racial equity advocacy. Through Advocate Resources & Training, the Shriver Center provides intensive training programs and resources, enabling advocates across the US to come together to enhance their skills, share knowledge, and connect with each other to advance anti-poverty advocacy campaigns and drive systems change.

Increasingly, the Shriver Center brings together antipoverty advocates into action-oriented networks. These networks include the Clearinghouse Community, a free online forum where lawyers and other advocates share best practices and strategies; the Legal Impact Network, which connects leading state-based antipoverty organizations to share strategies and coordinate multi-state action; and a network of alumni from a six-month Racial Justice Training Institute, which trains and supports anti-poverty lawyers to advance racial justice advocacy in their daily practices, organizations, and communities.

THE CASE: In August 2017, the Shriver Center (with Relman, Dane, & Colfax PLLC as co-counsel) with funding help from the Barbara McDowell Foundation filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the City of Peoria in Illinois for intentionally targeting enforcement of their “chronic nuisance” ordinance in predominantly African-American neighborhoods and against buildings with predominantly African-American tenants. As a result of these enforcement practices, African-American residents regularly face eviction for conduct that would not result in eviction for white residents. The case, HOPE Fair Housing v. City of Peoria, asserts that the selective enforcement discriminates based on race and has an unjustified disparate impact on African-American communities and tenants in the town, violating the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. and Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003. The litigation aims to secure the repeal of the nuisance ordinance and to send a message to other jurisdictions with crime-free and nuisance property ordinances that the enforcement of those laws must comply with civil rights laws.

Kate Walz, Director of Housing Justice & Director of Litigation, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, 50 East Washington Street, Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60602,