MacArthur Awards for Creative & Effective Institutions

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

Chicago, Illinois | 2010 Award Recipient

Fighting poverty through legal aid, advocacy, and education

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law is a leader in fighting poverty and advocating for low-income people across the U.S., through policy development, litigation, public education, information sharing, legal work, and media outreach.

Low-income people face countless legal challenges, from housing discrimination to custody battles to bureaucratic tangles in accessing social services. But indigent people usually do not have the resources to hire lawyers to protect their rights or help them navigate complicated systems. Since its founding by Sargent Shriver in 1967, the National Center on Poverty Law has helped poor people gain quality legal representation. Started as a network for lawyers representing indigent clients, the Chicago-based center also does national advocacy and policy work and fosters local and statewide programs that serve as national models. It helped Illinois access federal stimulus funds for the "Put Illinois to Work" program, providing temporary employment for 25,000 people. It is a member of the Illinois Responsible Budget Coalition seeking state budget reform and of the National Transitional Jobs Network that helped secure the first dedicated federal funding stream for a jobs program targeting those hardest to employ. The Center publishes Clearinghouse Review, the nation's premier journal for legal aid attorneys and advocates. A blog, e-newsletters, presentations, and reports also help raise awareness of poverty issues and inform law and policy on topics including public housing, welfare reform, child care, and affordable housing.

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law will use its $1 million award to create an operating reserve ensuring future financial stability and investment income, to facilitate key technology upgrades, and to augment fundraising and communications capabilities.


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