Maria Foscarinis ’81

The Good Fight

Fall 2011

Among the myriad misconceptions that exist about the homelessness epidemic in this country, one in particular stands out for Maria Foscarinis ’81, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

“It’s that people are homeless because they want to be, and that there are resources available but they refuse to use them,” Foscarinis explains. “I think that is a myth that is beginning to erode because so many people are now losing their homes.”

Over the past 30 years, Foscarinis has dedicated her professional life to solving the obstinate and vexing problem of poverty and homelessness in America. Along the way, she has played a role in nearly every federal legislative effort to combat the problem and filed major litigation to defend society’s most vulnerable.

Because of a 20 percent spike in family homelessness over the past three years, the need for an organization like the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has never been greater. But like most leaders of nonprofit organizations, Foscarinis has faced challenges in raising enough funds to address growing needs. In response, the former Columbia Law Review notes and comments editor, who served as a litigation associate at Sullivan & Cromwell, is tapping her network of old classmates and colleagues, upon whom she relies to provide pro bono work—the lifeblood of her organization.

“I really feel this country can solve the problem of homelessness,” she says. “This is not like a disease that we just don’t have a remedy for. It comes down to mustering the sufficient political will and finding the additional resources to solve the problem.”