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Equal Justice Works Fellows Participate in 2019 Texas Poverty Law Conference

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Fellows in the Disaster Recovery Legal Corps with Equal Justice Works program specialist Al Roberts (far right)

On August 27–30, 2019, the Poverty Law Conference (PLC) brought together pro bono coordinators from legal aid offices, law firms, law schools, and corporate law departments for a three-day training session on how to increase the quantity and quality of civil legal aid available to the low-income and poor Texans.

Created by the State Bar of Texas, the PLC offers targeted legal education with a specific public interest focus, and features presentations from some of the most knowledgeable poverty law practitioners and private attorneys in their respective fields.

At the event, conference participants were able to attend a variety of sessions, including presentations from several 2018 Equal Justice Works Fellows hosted at legal services organizations throughout Texas.

Here are some highlights:

Disaster recovery was a topic covered extensively at the conference. Hosted by Lone Star Legal Aid, Fellows Carla Krystyniak, Lauren Masullo, and Chase Porter from our Disaster Recovery Legal Corps held a session titled, “After the Storm: Critical Legal Housing-Related Issues that Rise to the Surface in Long-Term Recovery.” In the presentation, the Fellows discussed the legal needs a disaster survivor encounters at the short-term, medium term, and long term stages of recovery. Additionally, the Fellows shared resources on laws surrounding disaster recovery, including a series of Equal Justice Works training videos for disaster legal aid professionals.

Fellow Rachel Zummo presents at a session titled, “How Legal Aid Can Help Prepare our Communities for Disasters.”

Furthering disaster-related education, Fellows Brittanny Perrigue and Rachel Zummo, also from our Disaster Recovery Legal Corps, spoke at sessions surrounding the various facets of disaster risk reduction and recovery. Brittanny shared her experience working with clients on Small Business Administration matters arising from Hurricane Harvey and provided an overview of other federal disaster assistance loans. Rachel participated on a panel, where she discussed how the same sets of problems are repeated after every disaster, and how some problems could be avoided if clients had more information to help them prepare in advance. Brittanny and Rachel are hosted Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.

Along with presentations on disaster preparedness, Fellows participated in sessions related to housing and immigration. At the “Tiny Homes, Big Problems: A Closer Look at the Pitfalls of Alternative Affordable Housing” session, Fellow Eva Sikes, hosted by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc., spoke about issues associated with tiny homes, including structures not in compliance with zoning code; contractual clauses preventing clients from actually living in their tiny homes; and excluding clients from federal consumer protections. Fellow Reema Ali, hosted by Equal Justice Center, discussed her experience with building a new model of integrated employment-and-immigration legal services for immigrant workers to combat workplace exploitation. Eva and Reema are sponsored by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.

We look forward to attending the 2020 Texas Poverty Law Conference. In the meantime, click here to meet all the Equal Justice Works Fellows who are serving residents in Texas.

The Disaster Recovery Legal Corps has received philanthropic support from the American Red Cross, Bigglesworth Family Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Florida Bar Foundation, Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, Sharon and Ivan Fong Family Foundation, and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow