2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Andrew Chen

Andrew Chen

Name of Host Organization: Public Counsel
City, State: Los Angeles, California
Issue area: Housing/Homelessness, Children/Youth
Sponsors: Anonymous

The Project

Andrew will help homeless youth in West Los Angeles escape homelessness by working with Public Counsel to create a new legal clinic at Safe Place for Youth (SPY), a drop-in shelter and service provider, which will provide access to critical legal services relating to civil penalties, housing, employment, education, and community outreach.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
On a national level, youth homelessness is a quiet crisis that has been growing for decades. This crisis is particularly acute in Southern California, including the neighborhood of Venice on the west side of Los Angeles, which has been a haven for many years for homeless persons, including an increasing number of homeless youth. Homeless youth are often targeted for robbery, physical assault, and sexual assault. They are also targets for police, who issue tickets to them for offenses such as jaywalking, sleeping in public, public urination, and many others. Homeless youth often do not have the resources to get to court, let alone pay the fines. As a result, many youth accumulate failures to appear and bench warrants for their arrest. These tickets not only prevent youth from seeking the protection of law enforcement, but also make it extremely difficult for them to enroll in school, find employment, or gain housing. There is currently no legal provider in Venice to help homeless youth with these issues and other related issues.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Andrew is the right person for the project because:
• As a student clerk at Public Counsel, he has prior experience working with homeless persons, including youth, on legal issues relating to civil penalties and public benefits
• He has a knack for establishing rapport with clients and a calm demeanor under pressure
• He is passionate about advocating for the legal rights of the homeless and building empathetic, compassionate communities around them and others in need.
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Andrew will:
• Work with SPY to set up a comprehensive intake process for both drop-in visits and proactive street outreach
• Begin collaborating with the Los Angeles-based Coalition to end Youth Homelessness to create “Know Your Rights” educational programming for homeless youth
• Start representing clients in court, arguing for the dismissal of their tickets and warrants

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