The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates that there are more than 3 million people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. These individuals face a wide array of barriers to housing, including legal issues, without the resources to pay for assistance. While these realities are disheartening, incredible work is being done by in-house attorneys to help overcome the obstacles many homeless individuals and families face. Attorneys can provide the homeless with a range of valuable legal services.
Numerous in-house legal departments, including Aetna Inc. **, Exelon Corporation**, Merck & Co., Inc.**, and The Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack**, have partnered with the Homeless Advocacy Project to set up birth certificate clinics, fulfilling an important need for those experiencing homelessness. Living without birth certificates makes it almost impossible to receive medical assistance, apply for a job, enter a skills training program, or secure housing. Without legal assistance, obtaining replacement birth certificates can be difficult. Securing identification can be a frustrating and circular process, as some form of identification is needed to obtain another form of identification. However, an attorney can help break the cycle, and that’s just what these legal departments have done. Exelon alone has helped more than 240 individuals apply for birth certificates.
Criminal Record Expungement
Volunteers from legal departments at Caterpillar Inc.**, Ford Motor Company**, and Hewlett-Packard Company** partner with nonprofit organizations, such as Project Homeless Connect and Stand Down, to help expunge criminal records, secure benefits, and much more. Individuals who have been arrested but not convicted of any crime, or those who have made mistakes in their past, have found that their criminal record serves as a barrier to advancement. Record expungement helps those experiencing homelessness better access employment, education, and housing. Often, homeless individuals are not aware that this service is an option, as such relief is discretionary. Having legal representation can make all the difference.
Since barriers to housing are as unique as the individuals experiencing them, and run the gambit of legal issues, in-house attorneys from every practice area can find valuable ways to lend their time and skills.
** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM
Hat tip to PBI intern Sherri Golkow for her help on this post.