Jovanda C. Spain

The Project

The Elder Abuse Prevention Project provides high quality legal services to elders who have been victims of abuse, neglect, and exploitation in the Greater Boston area.

The Project was dedicated to ensuring that older adults in the greater Boston area live free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Many older adults living in Massachusetts are vulnerable due to isolation, physical and/or mental impairments, and dependence on others, especially family members. This vulnerability makes them easy targets for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect, financial exploitation, and fraud. The project was designed to provide legal representation to elders to ensure that they have the income, health care and services that they need to live independently in the community. Jovanda’s work promoted affordable housing for seniors, access to quality health care, Social Security or SSI income.

Fellowship Highlights

The project has been successful in the preservation of housing for elders by defending against evictions from public and subsidized housing. It has ensured economic security for elders through the provision of Social Security/SSI benefits to uplift elders out of poverty. It has been effective in strengthening access to health care for elders in order that their right to quality affordable health care becomes a reality.

Next Steps

Jovanda hopes to begin a career in legal services and work to defend and preserve the rights of low-income people who face injustices. Her interest in wanting to be an advocate for the community is simple; she wants to make a difference in people’s lives and enable them to achieve what would otherwise not be possible.

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Project

Anna addressed the ongoing issue of exploitation in the workforce of Vietnamese immigrants in the Greater Boston area. These immigrants lack significant formal education, job skills and proficiency in English and they compete for a limited number of low-skilled jobs. In collaboration with Greater Boston Legal Services and Vietnamese organizations, Anna connected with community leaders to provide worker workshops and representation where necessary, and also with the Attorney General and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Project

Amy McCarthy helped facilitate mortgage foreclosure prevention with residents in Detroit, Michigan.

The Project

Krista provided legal advocacy and outreach to low-income disabled children and their families at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) Hematology-Oncology clinic through a medical-legal partnership (MLP).

MLP is a critical component of family-centered care. Since legal detriments of health are among the most serious and solvable social barriers to patient health and well-being, and because it is unrealistic to supply an affordable lawyer for every patient, MLPs promote legal problem solving for the most vulnerable patients, including low-income children and their families, as a component of health care. The ACH Hematology-Oncology clinic is the primary clinic in Arkansas treating blood disorders and the only clinic in the state treating childhood cancer. With a continuing stream of patients, it is impossible for medical providers to identify and address every unmet legal need without a targeted screening system in place. Addressing these needs is significant to improving health.

Fellowship Highlights

  • Provided legal assistance to more than 250 low-to-moderate income patients and families coping with chronic and terminal illness at Arkansas Children’s Hospital
  • Trained social workers and medical staff on legal issues affecting patients and families, including SSI and other income supports, special education, guardianships, powers of attorney and employment rights
  • Developed an MLP self-help advocacy app with support from Walmart and Akin Gump
  • Organized two wills clinics for families at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, in which Walmart and Akin Gump attorneys participated on a pro bono basis
  • Launched a six-month pilot MLP at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to address and study the unmet legal needs of patients with sickle cell disease who recently transitioned from a pediatric care setting

What’s Next

Following her Fellowship, Krista became a staff attorney/MLP Coordinator at Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Augusta, Maine, where she founded and managed the Veterans Medical-Legal Partnership with VA Maine Healthcare System. She practiced veterans law, including discharge upgrades for veterans with PTSD or mental health conditions. She also coordinated Pine Tree’s veterans pro bono projects, including Military Mondays, a monthly legal clinic in partnership with Starbucks and the Maine State Bar Association, where she served as Co-Chair of the Veterans Law Section.

Krista now works as a Fellowships portfolio manager at Equal Justice Works, where she oversees Fellows and Fellowship sponsors on the East Coast.

Media

Sometimes Legal Aid Isn’t Enough: A Case for MLPs

The Project

Amy will create an “attorney of the day” program in the courthouse to provide legal assistance and outreach to low-income people in Greater Atlanta facing eviction and homelessness, and partner with community groups to educate and empower tenants about their legal rights.

Every week in court, landlord-tenant cases number in the hundreds and the vast majority of tenants face eviction without legal assistance in the Atlanta metro area. In recent years, the rapid pace of gentrification and the foreclosure crisis has jeopardized fair access to affordable housing, displacing low-income communities of color. For the most vulnerable in the community, attaining housing security is an important step toward ending the cycle of poverty and finding stability to move forward.

The Project

Deena defended tenants with disabilities in Greater Boston from voucher termination and corresponding eviction through direct representation, collaboration with service providers, and training of advocates.

Voucher holders experience a dual legal struggle when facing eviction – the loss of their housing unit and termination of the very subsidy that would enable them to find alternate affordable housing. Tenants who get legal assistance for one crisis usually cannot get it for the other, even though they frequently occur simultaneously, as one triggers the other. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to terminations and evictions, as they are often caused by disability-related reasons, and they face additional obstacles when looking for alternate, accessible housing. Once an individual loses a voucher, that person is essentially blacklisted from participation in all public or subsidized housing, almost ensuring chronic homelessness. This project will aggressively enforce the rights of families and individuals with disabilities to keep their homes by preserving housing subsidies for this vulnerable population.

Deena is the right person for the project because she believes housing is vital to achieving health and well-being and is deeply committed to fighting for housing stability, particularly for people with disabilities. She worked in the housing field for several years, including as a housing advocate prior to law school and she continued and expanded this work through her internships and clinical placements during law school. She has also worked with many clients facing barriers associated with the disadvantages of disability, poverty, and homelessness and has learned the importance of adjusting her style of advocacy to meet each clients’ distinct needs.

Fellowship Highlights

During Deena’s Fellowship, Deena:

  • Represented tenants in voucher termination proceedings, evictions, and judicial review of administrative decisions
  • Developed materials, conduct trainings, and provide ongoing support for community advocates and pro-bono attorneys
  • Connected with organizations serving clients with disabilities to establish timely intervention networks and set up referral systems with other housing programs
  • Developed and strengthened relationships with subsidy providers
  • Advocated for tenant-friendly reform within the housing agencies and courts