Finding a Way 9 attorneys Laurence Schoen, Martha Koster, Noah Shaw, Andrew Nathanson, Amanda Carozza, Yalonda Howze, and James Wodarski filed a federal lawsuit against HUD in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the diversion of Mississippi’s housing relief funds. The court granted HUD’s motion to dismiss the suit. In response, Mintz Levin attorneys filed an appeal and raised the possibility of filing an administrative complaint directly with HUD against the state. The Road to Resolution In tandem with these legal proceedings, and at the request of a newly appointed official at HUD, representatives on the plaintiffs’ side and from Governor Barbour’s office started meeting to discuss possible solutions. The parties resolved that they would try to develop estimates of the area’s unmet housing needs. HUD agreed to provide expertise and advice to help make it happen. MCJ reported that the majority of the housing need was in low-income African American communities north of the railroad tracks and called for aid to approximately 5,000 households. When MCJ’s report was picked up by the media, the issue gained attention nationwide. Meanwhile, the state faced continuing scrutiny from HUD and an ongoing campaign by housing advocates like Mississippi’s Steps Coalition. Given this mounting pressure and the pending appeal, Governor Barbour finally agreed in the fall of 2010 to what would become the Neighborhood Home Program. In the agreement, the state dropped its exclusion of those with wind damage and those without insurance, and set aside $93 million for housing assistance to 4,400 households previously denied assistance. The state also agreed to conduct an outreach program to find even more needy households, and allocated an additional $40 million to meet the needs of those survivors. Furthermore, the state agreed that eligible households would include those in counties as far as 100 miles inland—the reach of the hurricane’s wind damage. In exchange, through Mintz Levin, the plaintiffs withdrew their lawsuit. Ten weeks later, more than 17,000 households had applied for assistance. Now Mississippi residents like James Johnson are finally beginning to get the help they need. It is extraordinary for me to contemplate that a major national law firm, with all the competitive pressures of our profession, put in the years and hours worth of commitment to achieve this outcome to a remote corner of the Deep South. It is moving. And the work itself, the advice and counsel, the tactics and the strategy, were the best anyone could hope for. Reilly Morse Senior Attorney Mississippi Center for Justice