Olivia Ortiz

The Project

Olivia (she/her/hers) will aid young people experiencing homelessness in successfully navigating the public benefits process through a wide range of advocacy in Snohomish County, Washington.

In Washington, over 13,000 young people are homeless and unaccompanied, making up more than 32% of the homeless population. Young people who are Black, Indigenous, pregnant or parenting, LGTBQ, disabled, involved with juvenile justice or foster care, or victims of sexual exploitation disproportionately experience homelessness. This population faces countless challenges in a system of services designed for adults.

This project will fund the only attorney in Snohomish County dedicated to advocating for the rights of homeless young people to access and maintain public benefits. It will fill a gap identified by community stakeholders and promote access to life-sustaining benefits for a vulnerable population.

As a person of color with a disability, Olivia is driven to serve young people as they navigate the complexities of obtaining and maintaining public benefits.

Fellowship Plans

Olivia will collaborate with stakeholders to implement a Public Benefits Clinic for young people experiencing homelessness. She will create accessible materials for young people educating them on the public benefits process. In addition, Olivia will develop a questionnaire to gather relevant information about youth clients and inform future work with homeless young people.

Receiving legal aid was instrumental to my graduation from college. I am honored to build community with and serve the most marginalized young people in Snohomish County and facilitate their healing as my attorneys did mine.”

Olivia Ortiz /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Candice worked to reduce the number of youth of color experiencing homelessness by providing holistic legal services with a race equity lens and engaging youth to inform and improve direct and systemic advocacy.

The 2017 King County Youth of Color Needs Assessment reported nearly 8,000 youth experience homelessness in King County annually, with youth of color notably and disproportionately affected. Youth struggling with homelessness need legal advice to understand their options for safety and to access emergency shelter, education, and medical care. Many youths may also need an attorney to help them navigate and access immigration relief, child protective services, and juvenile and family court proceedings. Candice’s project aimed to increase the awareness, accessibility, and cultural competency of civil legal aid to provide effective services for youth of color to remove these barriers to housing stability.

After volunteering with a local foster care organization and witnessing the multitude of issues that youth face in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, Candice knew she wanted to help improve the systems that heavily affect youths’ life trajectories.

Fellowship Highlights

During her two-year Fellowship, Candice:

  • Became the first person at her host organization to file an Order of Limited Dissemination, and participate in a writ of habeas corpus hearing in a family law court
  • Provided direct representation to 14 youth of color in landlord disputes, protection orders, family law hearings, and other civil legal issues
  • Provided advice and referrals to 100 individuals
  • Conducted outreach presentations for ten partners and service providers about LCYC’s services
  • Co-created eight animated videos on civil legal rights for youth of color experiencing homelessness

Next Steps

Candice will remain with her host organization, LCYC, as a staff attorney. Candice is thrilled to continue working with such an amazing and supportive organization to expand civil legal services to young people.

Coming from a large family myself, I have always been inspired to do work that positively impacted children and their families.

Candice Dundy /
Equal Justice Works Fellow