Guest BLOGGER: Kristen Horne

PROJECT HELP: Year in Review (almost)

Project H.E.L.P (Homeless Experience Legal Protection) is preparing to celebrate one year of success in assisting Columbia area homeless people with their legal needs.  More than 50 attorneys have volunteered their time and expertise at the clinic to assist about 50 clients since November 2008, when the Richland County Bar, the Public Service Committee, and community sponsors launched the project.  Project H.E.L.P’s host for its first year has been St. Lawrence Place, a transitional housing facility for working homeless families in Columbia.  With a year of knowledge and experience, and outstanding assistance from the St. Lawrence Place staff, Project H.E.L.P. is preparing to move to a new location and broaden its client base.

Some exciting changes are in the works.  Beginning in November, Project H.E.L.P. will be hosted by Catholic Charities of the Midlands, on the corner of Assembly and Taylor Street.  This new central location downtown will make the clinic more accessible to clients with limited transportation.  In the past year Project H.E.L.P. has also developed relationships with more Midlands area organizations providing assistance to the homeless and is reaching out to those groups to identify clients who are in need of the clinic’s resources.

Ideally, the clinic will be staffed with five or six volunteers who will donate about two hours of their time on the third Thursday of the month.  The goal for 2009 is to serve between 12 and 15 clients each month.  Clients will continue to make appointments to meet with an attorney volunteer so that we can identify their legal need in advance and give the volunteers a bit of time to prepare to assist the clients.

Another exciting expansion comes in the form of certifying and retaining copies of identification documents for clients.  Homeless individuals often have a difficult time keeping their driver’s licenses, social security cards, and other government issued identification.  This identification is required to use many services, including staying in some shelters.  It can often take six weeks or more to replace lost or stolen identification.  Catholic Charities has graciously offered to maintain a file of certified copies of H.E.L.P. clients’ identification to be used in case those items are lost and need to be replaced.  Volunteers will be needed to notarize these copies.  This is a great opportunity for judges and judicial clerks, paralegals, and law students to give much-needed assistance to Project H.E.L.P. clients without giving any legal advice.  Also, if you have a locking file cabinet that you would like to donate for the project, please let us know.

Project H.E.L.P. was started by Judge Jay Zainey, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  Judge Zainey started Project H.E.L.P. in New Orleans to assist homeless people with maintaining certified copies of identification documents so that they would be available for service providers.  Since Hurricane Katrina’s tremendous impact on the needs of New Orleans residents, the project has grown dramatically and expanded to other cities including New York, Chicago, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Shreveport, Birmingham, Savannah, as well as Columbia.

In Columbia, the RCBA H.E.L.P. project operates a once-monthly morning clinic offering pro bono legal services and providing basic information about access to government benefits, identification documentation, housing, child custody, and other common legal issues affecting the homeless.  Community programs serving the homeless help the clinic identify clients by encouraging individuals with legal needs to participate.

Morning legal clinics will be held every third Thursday of the month.

Upcoming clinic dates are October 15th, November 19th, and December 17th.

To learn more or to volunteer, please contact Kristen Horne at 255-9530.

Reprinted with permission from the Richland County Bar News. (c) 2009

-RFW

Nosy is Back: Ask-A-Lawyer Style

Ask-A-Lawyer
Ask-A-Lawyer

Next Monday (8-24-09), our very own Nosy Wheeler will be participating in the SC Bar’s Ask-A-Lawyer program on Columbia television station WLTX.

If you have a question, please be sure to tune in and take advantage of the legal minds!

August 24, 2009

WLTX – Columbia

4:45-7:45 pm

Call in number: (803) 647-0299

-RFW

Three Dog Night or Kool and the Gang?

Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music. OR. Celebrate good times, come on.

The nation is experiencing a financial meltdown. People are losing their jobs in record numbers. Legal Service organizations and normally stable law firms are experiencing reductions or freezes in their workforce, many for the first time ever. And soon we’ll whisk in a new year.

This is definitely not the time to celebrate, right? Wrong.

Wait, what?

It’s exactly the time for us to celebrate what so many of us ARE accomplishing. This is the time for us to rally behind each other and support one another.

Why?

Because the numbers don’t lie. Recently I asked South Carolina Legal Services whether the current crisis had any effect on the requests for service they had received. Here is what I received:

Comparison figures for applicants seeking SCLS services:

 

Jan. 1, 2007 – Dec. 15, 2007                Jan.1, 2008 – Dec. 15, 2008

Cases Accepted          7,281                       Cases Accepted          8,375 ( +1,094)

Cases Denied             3,395                         Cases Denied              3,249 ( -149)

TOTAL CASES             10,676                      TOTAL CASES             11,624 ( + 948)

 

  That’s almost a thousand more applicants coming through SCLS intake this year-to-date as compared to the same period last year.

 

There is also an increase in the consumer and employment cases SCLS closed this year:

 

2007 closed cases              2008 closed cases (12/15/08)        Difference

 Bankruptcy-275                         Bankruptcy-315                                       +40 cases

Collect’ n (incl Repo.)-265      Collect’n-277                                             +12 cases

Total Consumer-737                 Total Consumer-792                              +55 cases

 

Employment cases-117           Employment cases-273                        +156 cases

 

Housing-952                                 Housing -780                                            -172 cases

  

There’s even more difference in cases ACCEPTED:

 

2007 (Jan – Dec 15)                    2008 (Jan – Dec 15)              Difference

 Bankruptcy                    316              448                                                    +132

Total Consumer           812                1,075                                                +263

 

Total Employment      214                410                                                    +196

 

Total Housing                1,049            976                                                    -73(no HUD counseling grant in 2008)        

  

Additionally, there were 2,654 more calls answered at the SCLS Call Center through November 2008 over the same period last year.

 

About this time, you’re probably thinking, why celebrate? Doesn’t this simply confirm what everyone has been saying – we’re in a recession; more people need legal assistance; and legal assistance resources are being cut in record numbers. And you’re right, these numbers ARE horrific. And we could wallow. BUT let’s take a moment to recognize the good that HAS been done this year.

 

SCLS assisted 8,375 new clients this year. That’s 8,375 people who were given hope. That’s 8,375 people who probably were wondering what they would do if they lost their home, their job, their medical benefits. That’s 8.375 people whose request was taken seriously. That’s 8,375 people who received access to justice.

 

Sure, it’s likely that not all of the 8,375 individuals won their cases. But it is likely that having someone to listen to them and fight for their civil rights meant something incredible for every one of those 8,375 individuals.

 

You’ve had an opportunity to read about some of those individuals in this blog and I hope to continue to share their stories.

 

And I hope that your holiday is filled with peace and that you take a moment to celebrate the successes of South Carolina Legal Services, the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono volunteer attorneys, and everyone else who has been involved in the worthy cause to make access to justice a reality for all South Carolinians, regardless of their financial status.

 

I will be traveling next week and although I’ll attempt to check in, I may be “off the grid.”  If so, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, a Meaningful Kwanzaa and peace until then.

 

-RFW

Hey Greenvile, Ask-A-Lawyer is in Town on October 29th!

WYFF in Greenville will host Ask-A-Lawyer from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 29th. Members of the public can call 1-800-808-5824 to speak to attorneys or chat with an attorney online by visiting www.scbar.org/aal.

Thanks in advance to volunteer attorneys: Rebecca L. Babb, Adam C. Bach, Maggi Fields Bailey, Ronald F. Barbare, David D. Cantrell Jr., Matthew B. Hill, J. Edwin McDonnell, Jacqueline A. Moss, Rodney F. Pillsbury and John M. Read IV.