While Massachusetts has made strides to reduce homelessness among individuals, veterans, and families, there are still many living on the streets, in shelters and motels, or in danger of becoming homeless. The Legal Clinic helps the homeless with the legal issues that block them from breaking the cycle of poverty and prevent them from leading safe, healthy, and productive lives.
The Legal Clinic has come a long way since its inception in 1994, when volunteer attorneys first met with homeless guests staying at Pine Street Inn. Since that first clinic, ten area law firms and a growing number of corporate legal departments have signed on to volunteer, and over 3,000 homeless and low-income clients have received pro bono representation on a range of poverty law matters including housing, benefits, and criminal record sealing.
Now, with an influx of funding, the Clearinghouse is revamping management of the program and assembling additional resources to support volunteers. With the addition of two new clinic sites, one at the Southampton Street Shelter and one at Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP), the Clearinghouse now operates the Legal Clinic at six shelter locations.
Another year of clinics kicked off on September 9 at St. Francis House, under the watch of a new director, Mia Friedman.
Mia joined the Clearinghouse in 2014 as the Director of the Access to Justice Fellows Program, which pairs senior lawyers and retired judges with nonprofit organizations, courts, and other public interest entities to provide pro bono assistance to people and groups in need.
The Fellows Program has flourished under Mia’s lead, and her effective direction made her the top choice to take over the Legal Clinic.
“The Cummings Foundation grant is a game-changer,” says Clearinghouse Executive Director Maribeth Perry. “We expect to serve more people than ever before, and we’re excited to have Mia at the helm.”
Additionally, Dick Bauer has been added to the Clearinghouse staff in an “Of Counsel” role. Dick, an experienced legal services attorney and former Access to Justice Fellow, has signed on to provide training, supervision, and mentoring in housing cases coming out of the Legal Clinic. His involvement will greatly enhance the Clearinghouse’s ability to support volunteer attorneys working on Legal Clinic cases.
Ultimately, these changes to the Legal Clinic will make the program more effective and far-reaching, and Mia says she looks forward to its continued growth.
“This year, we are focusing on managing our new clinic sites, improving resources for our volunteer attorneys, and building our pool of volunteer attorneys, both from big and small law firms and from corporate legal departments,” she says. “The ultimate goal is to find a lawyer for every homeless client who needs one.”
The Clearinghouse is very grateful for the lawyers, paralegals, law firms, and corporate legal departments who have partnered with the Legal Clinic. We look forward to another successful year of pro bono service and know we could not do this without the continued support of our dedicated volunteers.
Our Legal Clinic partners:
Boston Scientific Corporation
Choate Hall & Stewart
Goulston & Storrs
Hinshaw & Culbertson
Nolan Sheehan Patten
Ropes & Gray