Photo of Alex Matak

Alex Matak

  • Hosted by National Homelessness Law Center
  • Sponsored by Buckley LLP
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school CUNY School of Law
  • Issue area Civil Rights/Civil Liberties, Housing/Homelessness
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Alex (she/her/hers) will help launch a network of pro bono legal clinics designed to curb the criminalization of homelessness by amplifying on-the-ground legal services for unhoused people while steering aggressive litigation and policy strategies.

More than 3.5 million people in the U.S. go unhoused annually—a rate that has steadily increased over the past several years and will only keep rising given the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, cities and states across the country are adopting “quality of life” laws—better understood as anti-homeless laws—that criminalize basic survival activities like sleeping, sitting, erecting temporary shelter, asking for money, and even sharing food in public. The scale is massive: every major city in the country currently has several of these laws on the books, leading to hundreds of thousands of citations, tickets, and arrests each year. The effects are disproportionately felt by Black, Brown, Indigenous, disabled, and LGBTQIA communities. These laws do not “solve” mass homelessness; rather, they serve only to trap very poor and unhoused people in cycles of poverty and criminalization, as well as stifle their ability to organize towards solutions that address the root causes of homelessness and poverty. 

Fellowship Plans 

Taking her lead from organizers and advocates long-established in unhoused communities, Alex will develop the specific legal infrastructure needed to build a network of legal clinics focused on defending against anti-homeless laws and challenging their discriminatory impacts. This legal infrastructure will ensure that the clinics can work in constant collaboration with each other across cities and states and that the information gleaned from their frontline work can steer and create aggressive impact litigation and policy strategies on a national level. An aspiring poverty law and civil rights attorney, Alex will also assist in litigation and direct representation where feasible.

Media

Three Class of 2021 grads have been awarded the Equal Justice Works Fellowship

So-called ‘quality of life’ laws are part of a long legacy of attempts to criminalize poverty, people of color, and homelessness—from anti-Okie laws to Jim Crow, sundown towns, and broken windows policing. These laws deny poor people’s humanity and attack their basic means of life.

Alex Matak /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

Meet Other Fellows Like Alex

View All

Eugene Chen

Host: New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)

Sponsor: The Paul Rapoport Foundation

Tiara Brown

Host: Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid

Sponsor: Stinson Leonard Street LLP, The Family of Hyman Edelman

Jason Bailey

Host: Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law

Sponsor: Norflet Progress Fund

Margaret Burgess

Host: Atlanta Legal Aid Society

Sponsor: Cox Enterprises, Eversheds Sutherland