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Law students assist with UN visit on housing this week

Loyola press release - October 26, 2009

Students in the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law will assist with the visit of a United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30 and 31. Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik is visiting cities across the country to talk to residents impacted by the national housing crisis. Her New Orleans visit will focus on public housing inadequacies resulting from Hurricane Katrina.

Rolnik travels internationally to observe how governments protect access to housing, what the U.N. sees as a globally-recognized right. In addition to investigating the impact of the economic recession on the American housing crisis, Rolnik will examine government action, including demolition of public housing, and cuts in funding to support public housing for vulnerable families. Rolnik will present the findings of her mission to the U.N. General Assembly in a public report.

Davida Finger, assistant clinical professor in the College of Law, said Rolnik’s visit is timely and crucial.

“Housing needs are urgent in our community,” Finger said. “Safe and affordable housing in New Orleans does not exist for many thousands of families. This visit is important to expose real issues with our housing crisis.”

J.P. Shuster, a second-year College of Law student and president of the International Law Society, organized a coalition of student organizations to work with faculty and local advocacy groups to participate in Rolnik’s visit. Other student organizations include the Loyola chapters of the National Lawyer’s Guild, the Public Interest Law Group and Amnesty International.

The coalition is seeking more volunteers to assist with:

· Distribution of publicity - Informing New Orleans residents when, where and how they may participate in public portions of the visit.

· Legal reporting - Recording testimonies of New Orleans residents affected by housing policies for official submission to the U.N.

· Policy advocacy - Participation in both the town hall and advocacy group meetings.

Activities during the visit will include meetings with New Orleans city officials, a public housing site visit and a town hall meeting, which will be held on Friday, Oct. 30, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., at the St. Bernard Community Church, 3938 St. Bernard Ave.

A complete schedule of events can be found here. To volunteer, e-mail ilsloyno@gmail.com.

The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, along with local housing groups, are facilitating the visit.

Local grassroots organizations instrumental in the visit include Mayday New Orleans, UNITY for Greater New Orleans, C3 Hands Off Iberville, Committee to Reopen Charity Hospital, New Orleans Center for Racial Justice, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights and Louisiana Justice Institute.

For more information on how to participate, e-mail ilsloyno@gmail.com.