Sara McVicker

The Inspiration

The Project

Taylor created school- and community-based legal intake clinics, coordinated and conducted legal education trainings, incorporated organizing strategies to address community-identified needs, and provided legal representation to Kenilworth-Parkside families in conjunction with the D.C. Promise Neighborhoods Initiative (DCPNI).

D.C.’s Kenilworth-Parkside community received national attention as one of only 21 inaugural federal Promise Neighborhoods grantees—a program, based on the Harlem Children’s Zone, aimed at providing a grassroots “cradle-to-college” continuum of services to increase student and family outcomes through place-based programs. Despite the overwhelming need for legal services in this community and the large number of eligible families, Taylor discovered that legal aid providers were noticeably absent from the more than 70 partners currently providing social, medical, academic and financial support through this effort. Similarities in the holistic missions of both Promise Neighborhoods and Bread for the City inspired Taylor to seek out Bread for the City as her host organization.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Taylor:

  • Hosted 53 legal clinics in the DCPNI footprint
  • Provided full representation in 81 cases and brief advice or referrals in an additional 350 matters for clients living in Kenilworth-Parkside
  • Worked with a group of senior tenants to reroute two city bus lines and have a stop constructed in front of their building
  • Created a pilot project to directly solicit and provide representation to tenants who had been sued in eviction cases

Where are they now?

Taylor continues to work at Bread for the City as a senior staff attorney in the Community Lawyering Project.

My clients’ stories continue to fuel my belief that when people are given access to legal services, the judicial system can be a place where the disenfranchised have a voice that is heard by many.

Taylor Healy /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Vanessa provided direct representation, advocacy, and community education to vulnerable consumers who were victims of predatory and fraudulent immigration services in Pennsylvania.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

Immigration services fraud occurs when non-lawyers prey on immigrants’ desire for legal status. Fraudsters lie to victims about their own qualifications to provide immigration assistance, about the availability of visas, and often rob victims of thousands of dollars and trigger permanent immigration consequences like deportation. Some licensed but unscrupulous lawyers also defraud their clients, misleading them into paying thousands of dollars for unnecessary and potentially damaging immigration applications. Despite the fact that this is a significant and common problem, there has not been a focused legal effort on combating immigration services fraud in Pennsylvania. This gap in legal services, coupled with additional barriers that low-income immigrants face, including fear of law enforcement and government agencies, little education, and a lack of English skills, has resulted in victims being unable to access to our justice system.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Vanessa has:

  • Educated nearly 10,000 consumers and service providers about immigration services fraud.
  • Provided brief advice and referral, limited representation, or full representation to over 400 consumers.
  • Successfully worked with Philadelphia city council to draft and pass an ordinance that creates safeguards for consumers by regulating non-attorney businesses that offer immigration related services.

Where are they now?

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Vanessa plans to:

  • Continue to provide legal representation to victims of immigration services fraud.
  • Push for meaningful enforcement of Philadelphia’s ordinance to protect consumers from non-attorney businesses that offer immigration related services.
  • Build upon collaboration with community organizations to maximize outreach efforts to consumers across Pennsylvania.

The Project

Richard advocates for and assists low-income veterans in applying for service-connected/pension benefits and discharge upgrades through direct representation, education, and outreach to not only veterans but community service providers and the legal community.

There are well over 1 million veterans in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Poverty among veterans is a persistent problem and a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Because of the under-diagnosis of PTSD, TBI, and other service-connected injuries, thousands of veterans have been unjustly discharged from the military and denied veterans’ benefits. While procedures are in place to have veterans’ discharges reviewed, these procedures are extremely difficult to navigate, by a veteran alone.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Richard has:

  • Helped a veteran receive 100% service-connected disability benefits from the VA, along with over $35,000 in back benefits.
  • Provided brief services, advice, or referral to over 100 veterans, current military members, or their spouses; filed and received positive decisions for 8 individuals; filed and awaiting decisions for 13 individuals; and continues to represent over 80 individuals.
  • What’s NextTrained 10 attorneys at Morgan Lewis and over 60 local law students in the areas of veterans’ law and policy as well as trauma-informed legal practice, adding to the community of veterans’ advocates who understand the impact of an individual’s trauma history.

The Project

Carla Krystyniak is an Equal Justice Works Fellow serving in the Disaster Recovery Legal Corps (DRLC).

Hurricane Harvey caused billions of dollars of damage and directly impacted the lives of millions of Houston and Harris County residents. Low-income communities were the hardest hit. Their residents are in need of effective legal advice and representation across many areas of law, including government benefits, consumer, housing, employment, bankruptcy, and family law. Carla’s project serves Houston and Harris County, Texas by providing direct services to low-income populations affected by Hurricane Harvey. These services will ensure low-income survivors of Hurricane Harvey have access to a range of legal services needed to stabilize and rebuild their lives. Additionally, as the Lead Fellow, Carla coordinates the community of learning and helps build referral networks and processes among DRLC Fellows.

Prior to her Fellowship, Carla focused on community development and preservation working for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and international development while with the United Nations Foundation and U.S. Peace Corps. She worked most recently in environmental law for the City of Philadelphia and has a deep personal interest in promoting the sustainability of cities and communities. Carla holds a B.A. from George Washington University in international affairs and a J.D. from Villanova University.

Media

Equal Justice Works Fellows Participate in 2019 Texas Poverty Law Conference

LSC’s Disaster Task Force Report

Team of 23 Lawyers Mobilized, Helping Hurricane Victims in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico

Villanova Law alum leads despite devastation

Houston’s Next Act: Residents and Local Organizations Persist in Post-Harvey Recovery

The Long Road to Disaster Recovery

I am truly looking forward to being a part of Houston's recovery and to seeing the fruits of these efforts pay off in thoughtful and sustainable community growth into the future.

Carla J Krystyniak /
Equal Justice Works Fellow