Noelle Lemon

The Project

Noelle worked with HIAS Pennsylvania’s Immigrant Youth Advocacy Initiative to provide services to human trafficking survivors including trauma-informed screening, referrals to critical support services, increased outreach to potential survivors, and direct legal representation of survivors in immigration matters. 

As the only program of its kind in the state, HIAS PA’s Immigrant Youth Advocacy Initiative (IYA) has served unaccompanied and other vulnerable youth across southeastern Pennsylvania for more than a decade. In recent years and in response to an overwhelming need, HIAS PA has increased their work under the IYA by 300%. The increase began in 2014, when the United States saw an unprecedented surge in unaccompanied children arriving at our borders to seek safe haven. Primarily from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – three of the world’s most dangerous places for young people – these youth often flee domestic violence, extreme deprivation and other abuses and seek to reunite with a trusted caregiver. Yet, alone and desperate, they are incredibly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation that can occur while traveling to or after arriving in the United States. In recent years the IYA initiative has seen an increase in the number of cases involving trafficked children.

Fellowship

During her fellowship Noelle pursued outreach that led to increased connections with, and referrals of, trafficked children who could benefit from HIAS PA’s services. Noelle’s outreach included community education and fostering partnerships with service providers and organizations that come into contact with vulnerable youth, including local schools. 

Noelle assumed the responsibility of conducting legal screenings to assess for trafficking history. By informing youth about their rights under the law and providing direct representation and referrals, Noelle empowered trafficking survivors to access services and legal relief that will help them build the safe and stable futures that every child deserves. 

The Project

The Veterans Law Clinic provides legal advocacy and representation to low-income and/or disabled military veterans and their families in the Delaware and Pennsylvania areas who are seeking benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to direct representation and advice for compensation claims, we are organizing and participating in community outreach to better understand the needs of veterans in our area and expanding the legal services we provide.

The Inspiration

The Project

LAFLA is the frontline law firm for poor and low-income individuals in Los Angeles County. Sean focused on providing direct representation to low-income veterans and their families in both Los Angeles County courts and administrative hearings, as well as expanding the work of the VA Supportive Services for Veterans Families Program. Representation focuses on issues impacting veterans’ housing and income stability, including landlord-tenant and family law matters, public benefits, drivers’ license reinstatement, citation defense, and consumer concerns.

The Project

Bob provided outreach and tailored legal services to vulnerable LGBTQ+ veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area through community legal clinics, a newly established Medical-Legal Partnership, and collaborations with local service organizations.

LGBTQ+ Veterans are over-represented in all the risk categories associated with Veterans generally, such as homelessness, poverty, mental health issues, and suicide; yet, they are under-represented among Veterans receiving VA benefits and services. LGBTQ+ Veterans are not well understood because they do not readily self-identify and often eschew help due them due to the stigma and trauma many experienced during their military service and discharge process. Traditional spaces where Veterans congregate or receive services often seem hostile to LGBTQ+ Veterans.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Bob:

  • Provided full representation to 45 veterans before the Veterans Administration and boards of military correction, as well as limited assistance or legal referrals to an additional 58 veterans
  • Established a Medical-Legal Partnership with San Francisco Vet Center, holding weekly legal clinics for vulnerable veterans with mental health issues who possess Less than Honorable discharges
  • Obtained over $582K in retroactive, lump sum VA disability compensation and $25K in ongoing, monthly VA disability compensation for homeless or otherwise vulnerable veterans
  • Educated over 900 veterans, service providers, and allies about obtaining access to VA benefits and services, as well as discharge upgrades and corrections
  • Developed self-help guides for veterans seeking to upgrade their discharge characterization to fully Honorable and for transgender veterans seeking to change their name on their discharge paperwork
  • Launched a LGBTQ+ veteran support group that offers weekly therapeutic group sessions and established an annual LGBTQ veteran celebration event at the San Francisco LGBT Center

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Bob plans to continue and expand the work of his project as a staff attorney at Swords to Plowshares.

Media

’16 Alumnus Selected for Prestigious Equal Justice Works Post Graduate Fellowship

Vets Kicked Out for Being Gay Can Upgrade Their Discharge