The project is designed to support community development and preserve people’s access to safe, affordable, and healthy housing by engaging in foreclosure prevention litigation and community outreach.
LAFLA seeks to achieve equal justice for poor and low-income people in greater Los Angeles. We change lives through direct representation, systems change, and community education. My project is expanding the work of the VA Supportive Services for Veterans Families Program by providing direct representation of low-income veterans and their families, while prioritizing extremely vulnerable veterans, particularly chronically homeless Vietnam Era veterans and female veterans. Representation focuses on issues impacting veterans’ housing and income stability, including landlord-tenant and family law matters, public benefits, drivers’ license reinstatement, citation defense, and consumer concerns.
The incongruence of hearing veterans camped outside a homeless shelter talking about their time in service highlighted to me the need for more veterans’ advocates.
Anna Levine-Gronningsater /
Equal Justice Works Fellow
I will work with Legal Aid and the Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court in developing an ongoing partnership to better serve the needs of our nation’s veterans. Veterans Treatment Courts can address the unique needs of veterans who have entered the criminal justice system. As an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, I will provide civil legal services to defendants in Veterans Treatment Court that will help them comply with a court ordered diversion program and obtain sustained economic and social stability. I will assist Legal Aid in providing civil legal services to the general veteran population through its established Kentucky Corps of Advocates for Veterans.
I provide substantive legal supervision to AmeriCorps JusticeCorps members and staff as we assist self-represented litigants in cases involving child custody or visitation, child or spousal support, paternity, or divorce, in the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Central Courthouse Self-Help Resource Center.
I am developing instructional materials and resources to address legal issues identified as priorities for veterans and military families, and will organize a comprehensive program of outreach to inform them of the self-help resources available at the Court. Lastly, I will develop a panel of pro bono attorneys to represent absent servicemembers in child custody proceedings.
Christy Ferioli expanded on LAFLA’s work to secure equal access to justice for low-income veterans, particularly those who are female and/or chronically homeless. Christy’s work included providing direct representation to veterans seeking disability benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs, creating a veterans’ benefits legal clinic, and conducting outreach to veterans and their families on benefits eligibility and the VA claims process so that they better understand their rights.
With over 12,000 homeless veterans, Los Angeles is the homeless veterans capital of the United States. Inner City Law Center’s Homeless Veterans Project is dedicated to serving homeless and marginalized populations of veterans. We directly represent veterans seeking assistance with obtaining benefits from the VA, placing a special emphasis on those who have complex benefits claims including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma claims.
The Veterans Legal Project provides free legal services to low-income veterans. Some of the areas of law addressed include: family law, housing and foreclosure issues, debt collection, landlord/tenant law, and estate planning. We conduct informative clinics and also provide direct representation. We have ties with other agencies in the community to establish a network of holistic service. We are working on partnering with a local VA Medical Center to accompany their community clinic program that is operated out of a Rural Mobile Health Clinic vehicle to better reach out to our more rural population.
Sara provided holistic, civil legal representation to children and families of children involved in the juvenile justice system.
Children in the juvenile justice system often have a range of underlying issues that cause or exacerbate their juvenile court involvement. Often their families struggle with maintaining safe, affordable housing; acquiring public benefits; accessing health care; and other issues commonly affecting low-income families. In addition, many children involved in the juvenile justice system lack adequate educational supports, such as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for children with disabilities. The juvenile court system is not equipped to address the myriad needs associated with a child’s juvenile court involvement. Addressing the underlying issues will promote family stability and improve children’s chances of leaving the juvenile justice system sooner and staying out permanently.
During her Fellowship, Sara has:
- Provided civil legal assistance to 87 low-income clients and their families in matters ranging from education to domestic violence
- Informed schools about the educational rights of students and parents through direct representation of clients
- Trained juvenile court personnel and other community groups regarding civil legal issues common to her clients
Where are they now?
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Sara will continue to represent low-income clients at Southeastern Ohio Legal Services as a staff attorney.
Beth provided direct representation to unaccompanied immigrant female minors in the Boston area who have been victims of gender-based violence. She collaborated with mental health and medical providers to increase access to critical social services for these children.
In recent months, the numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in their home countries and entering the U.S. alone has increased significantly. These minors are being immediately placed in expedited deportation proceedings. Beth’s clients are among the most vulnerable unaccompanied minors whose well-being—and even their lives—are at risk if they are deported. Children cannot successfully navigate the complex immigration legal system alone, yet they are not afforded the right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings. Beth’s project provides critical legal representation to traumatized children who would otherwise have to participate in proceedings alone. Beth is also using her expertise to mentor law firm and corporate pro bono attorneys.
In the past two years, Beth has:
- Provided legal representation to young female survivors of gender-based violence who are facing deportation
- Developed best practices for legal representation and social services collaboration in serving this uniquely vulnerable population
- Created model filings for pro bono attorneys representing unaccompanied minors facing deportation
- Mentored pro bono attorneys representing unaccompanied minors in increasingly expedited and complex proceedings
- Provide high-level mentorship to pro bono attorneys facing complex and expedited proceedings in the context of the surge of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence
- Collaborated with social service providers and other stakeholders to ensure her clients—and similarly situated vulnerable minors—have access to the services they need
Stephanie provided legal advocacy and support to youth aging out of foster care in Harris County, Texas, to improve their social, educa-tional, and occupational opportunities in adulthood.
Need Addressed By Project
In 2011, Harris County had 2,630 youth in long-term foster care. Judges rarely appoint attorneys to these cases due to budgetary constraints and limited resources and when they do, there are no uniform court practices established to ensure proper representation and case oversight. Many of these youth age out of the system without the resources or support necessary to obtain employment, higher education, or housing, leading to high risk for homelessness, drug abuse, mental health issues, and contact with the criminal justice system. Most youth have no advocate to help them transition out of the foster care system, resulting in many youth suffering from unidentified problems and insufficient support, which ultimately hinders their ability to live independently.
During the Fellowship, Stephanie has:
- Represented 22 youth and young adults in Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) of the state by increasing access to appropriate medical, special education, and transitional services and advocating for least restrictive placement
- Assisted nine clients’ transition out of foster care with access to safe and stable housing, education, and employment opportunities
- Partnered with a district court to conduct best practices in PMC cases with a focus on youth engagement in hearings and published a report on the findings
- Coordinated and hosted a continuing legal education training for 35 child welfare attorneys and volunteer advocates
- Created five free online tutorials for students and attorneys interested in representing transition-aged youth in foster care
- Served as Legal Subcommittee Community Lead of the Harris County Child Welfare Collaborative, a local initiative created to strategize and implement practical, effective reform to the current system