Using litigation, advocacy, and coalition building to change systems that trap families in homelessness and poverty.
Needs Addressed by the Project
Sczerina created systems for parents who were at risk of becoming homeless or had become homeless to connect to a free legal advice and representation at the main DC intake center for homeless families. By being present at the moment of housing crisis, Sczerina could help parents fight evictions or illegal lock-outs, improve housing conditions, stop the condemnation of housing, connect parents to additional income sources, assert the rights of victims of domestic violence, stop wrongful terminations from housing programs or appeal illegal denials of shelter.
The project was vital in the relocation of families out of illegally operating communal shelters into apartment style units. Sczerina helped to restore millions of dollars to DC in the form of federal McKinney Vento funding. Sczerina was also vital in the creation of hundreds of local Section 8 vouchers for families, especially for children in the foster care system seeking to be reunited with their families. The project work continues today as an integral part of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless legal services. Families that are homeless have access to representation, resources, and the supports that they need to be safe, remain strong and ultimately move their and their children’s lives to a better place.
Sczerina was an adjunct Professor and a Clinical Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center. Today she counsels seniors about their legal rights at the Legal Counsel for the Elderly Hotline.
Michele’s Fellowship focused on helping families of children with special health care needs navigate the health care system, and providing legal representation to families that were unable to access the services their doctor said they needed due to an HMO denial.
In 2014, Michele became the executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center. Michele serves on the Board of Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and is on the St. Thomas Mission and Advocacy Committee. She has previously served and led boards including Tennessee Voices for Children, Nashville Bar Association Board of Directors, and the Tennessee Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorders Foundation.
Michele is the winner of the 1999 Child Advocacy Award of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. She was the Lawyer’s Association for Women 2016 Nashville ATHENA Award nominee and Tennessee Alliance for Progress Long Haul award winner. Tennessee Voices for Children has also recognized her work by awarding her a Lifetime Achievement Award for advocacy. In 2015, The Tennessee Bar Association recognized Michele as the Ashley Wiltshire Public Interest Attorney of the Year.
Your investment in this nerdy, naïve kid from Tennessee has enabled me to have a lasting and powerful impact on Tennesseans throughout our beautiful state.
Michele Johnson /
Equal Justice Works Fellow