Tiffany (she/her/hers) will provide for the economic empowerment of women experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Wichita Falls, Texas and the surrounding rural communities through direct representation, on-site intake at service provider locations, and community outreach.
The Texas Homeless Network estimates that in 2019 more than 8,000 people experienced homelessness in 215 rural Texas counties; additionally, in a 2020 report, the Texas Tribune showed that rural homelessness in Texas was up 33%. COVID-19 continues to pose risks for those experiencing homelessness as social services have become more limited, and the economic effects of the pandemic have put more Americans at risk of homelessness. With this trend of increasing homelessness, it is important to note that women’s homelessness is highly associated with exacerbating factors such as domestic violence and sexual exploitation/harassment, violent victimization, human trafficking, and trauma—all of which deteriorate mental health. Rural, low-income Texans already have difficulty accessing basic legal services; furthermore, rural areas in Texas generally lack dedicated resources to find and aid those experiencing homelessness, leaving churches and faith-based organizations as some of the few community lifelines.
During her Fellowship, Tiffany will focus on homelessness and homelessness prevention for women in the rural communities served by the Wichita Falls office of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. She will create and maintain partnerships with local non-profit and faith-based organizations that serve women experiencing or at risk of homelessness through outreach and on-site community intake to make civil legal aid accessible to this population. Tiffany will remove barriers to employment and sustainable housing by handling expunctions and nondisclosures of criminal records and litigating civil protective orders. Additionally, she will conduct community surveys to collect data on the additional legal needs of these women.
I do not know what it is like to be a homeless woman living in rural Texas. I do know, however, that it is my calling to use my legal knowledge to transform society into one that uplifts the marginalized.
Tiffany Uke /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Stephanie worked to remedy discriminatory practices, throughout the preparedness, response, and recovery phases of disasters and emergencies, which unlawfully deny or create unreasonable barriers for individuals with disabilities in accessing and providing an equitable opportunity of benefiting from disaster and emergency services.
Inequities experienced and seen during and after a disaster are a direct correlation to marginalized and vulnerable populations not accounted for in preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts. All entities providing resources and services to prepare, respond and recover must ensure the needs of individuals with disabilities are accounted for, as well as accommodated to ensure an equitable opportunity to benefit from all programs and activities.
Stephanie provided direct services and resources to individuals with disabilities across the state who experienced discriminatory practices in disaster and emergency services. She educated the legal community about the legal issues specific to individuals with disabilities throughout all phases of disasters and emergencies. Stephanie also pursued impact litigation based on systemic issues the disability community faces in disaster and emergencies.
Stephanie previously served as an Equal Justice Works Fellow in the Disaster Recovery Legal Corps, where she provided direct legal services for two years and saw first-hand the inequities experienced by individuals with disabilities. Disparities which exist prior to a disaster and emergency, are exacerbated by our failure to ensure equitable opportunities to prepare, survive, and recover from any tragedy. Stephanie believes equitable opportunities are possible and will work to safeguard nondiscriminatory processes and mechanisms for marginalized and vulnerable populations.
The scope of the need for legal services to survivors of campus sexual assault in Arkansas is vast. With two large universities and 16 community colleges in the service area, statistics (but not actual reporting numbers) tell us that thousands of young people in Arkansas have been victimized while attending one of the colleges. Unlike many urban areas, Arkansas does not have a robust network of nonprofit legal centers. Indeed, there are currently no organizations with a focus on providing legal representation to survivors of sexual assault, let alone one focusing on campus sexual assault. This Fellowship sought to fill that gap and initiate a concerted effort to provide comprehensive legal services to survivors.
Candice’s Fellowship took a two-prong approach to tackle the problem of campus rape and sexual assault. First, Candice built relationships with and provided educational/training opportunities to university students, faculty, and staff; private attorneys; law enforcement agencies; community-based service providers; pro bono attorneys; and other community stakeholders. Second, she provided comprehensive, culturally-competent, trauma-informed legal services to survivors of campus sexual assault.
As a former student survivor of sexual assault, Candice is personally motivated to ensure that students receive critical legal services to aid in their pursuit of justice.
Consumer Outreach with Rural Residents, will focus on providing consumer rights education, client representation and counseling to low income residents residing in rural Ft. Bend County. I will also recruit pro bono attorneys and volunteers to assist with providing consumer rights advice and coordinate consumer clinics geared towards educating vulnerable populations on their rights with regards to fair debt collection, unfair sales practices, bankruptcy, contracts, payday lending, automobile repossessions and post-judgment deficiencies.
Johnathan represented veterans who are denied the full benefits that their service and/or level of service-related injury merit.
The backlog in the processing of veterans’ benefits claims is well-documented. The pressures to reduce the backlog contributes to error rates in claims across the country as well as errors in assessing medical conditions that leave veterans with reduced levels of benefits. There are too many veterans with disability awards that understate the level of injury and loss of function. Johnathan’s project advocates on behalf of these veterans to ensure that they receive the correct benefits they have earned and deserve.
In the past two years, Johnathan has:
- Provided advice/brief services to 164 unique clients on veteran benefits matters (e.g., discharge upgrades, disability compensation, medical benefits, and surviving spouse benefits)
- Led over 85 trainings and presentations, including Know Your Rights workshops, to veterans and their families
- Created a training manual covering VA benefits, Texas state veterans’ benefits, and discharge upgrades
- Obtained thousands of dollars in economic benefits for underserved clients in the form of veterans benefits appeals, access to housing, employment, pension benefits, and reduced debts
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Johnathan will:
- Continue the important work started during this Fellowship by supporting pro bono efforts in my new position
- Begin a position at Mukerji Law Firm, practicing criminal defense
Jordyn Emmert is a 2018 Equal Justice Works Fellow serving in the Disaster Recovery Legal Corps.
Jordyn’s project focuses on plaintiff’s employment litigation practice in federal and state courts to enforce: federal and state wage rights, protections against employment discrimination (including especially workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault); employment contract rights; and legal protections against employer retaliation, labor trafficking, and exploitation of immigrant workers – all regardless of their immigration status. Her project is designed to meet the needs of the underserved community in Houston that was impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Together with local labor rights organizations, and immigrant rights groups, Jordyn engages community partners to encourage clients to pursue their claims.
Prior to joining the DRLC, Jordyn was a Fellow with Tahirih Justice Center, where she spent the last year representing immigrant women and girls fleeing gender based violence. Jordyn also previously clerked for the Honorable Judge Debra Ibarra Mayfield in the Harris County District Court 165. She is licensed in both the state of Texas and the Southern District of Texas and is able to represent clients in both state and federal court. Jordyn holds a B.A. in Spanish from Eastern University and graduated from Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Stephanie Duke is a 2018 Equal Justice Works Fellow serving in the Disaster Recovery Legal Corps. With a previous career in special education, Stephanie is passionate about supporting and advocating for integration and equitable opportunities for students with disabilities.
Disability Rights Texas provides a wide range of services for people with disabilities, from training to legal services to ensure that the rights of Texans with disabilities are not discriminated against on the basis of their disability. The Harvey relief project was initiated to ensure that disaster planning and recovery programs account for the needs of individuals with disabilities. Stephanie’s project aids individuals with disabilities impacted by Harvey that resided in Harris County when the hurricane hit, with a specific focus on zip codes: 77016, 77088, and 77077. She provides legal advice, resources, and supports to address FEMA denials and to obtain or maintain disability related services, such as accessible housing, continued employment, health care needs and access to special education programming.
Prior to joining the DRLC, Stephanie interned and clerked for Disability Rights Texas, through both the Access to Justice law internship and as a Houston Bar Association Employment Law Clerk. Stephanie earned a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma, an M.Ed. from Houston Baptist University, and a J.D. from the Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
With a previous career in education, I learned the importance of supporting and advocating for integration and equitable opportunities for students with disabilities.
Stephanie Duke /
Equal Justice Works Fellow