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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Collaboration Between Students and Attorneys Helps Clients Knock Down Barriers to Housing


The Shelter Clinic is a unique team collaboration between the Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP); Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Manatt, Phelps & Phillips; and UC Hastings College of the Law and their student group Homeless Legal Services. Each week, this team staffs a drop-in legal clinic at MSC South, which is run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society Shelter. The shelter houses approximately 380 homeless men and women each night.

Orrick and Manatt attorneys and Hastings students, working with a VLSP attorney, conduct intake and referral in all areas of the law at the shelter. For clients who have outstanding warrants preventing them from getting housing, employment, and government benefits, a legal team takes on the matter

Because outstanding warrants are one of the biggest barriers to stability, and San Francisco doesn’t have many resources offering people help with this, the Orrick attorneys and Hastings students decided to focus on clearing warrants.

Generally, outstanding warrants can be cleared if the advocate provides adequate information about the client’s current situation and how they are working to turn their life around.

Photo by Jim Block

In 2011, the Shelter Clinic cleared warrants for 31 homeless clients (sometimes multiple warrants for one client). In addition, the project offered consultation and referral to another 260 homeless clients.
The Shelter Clinic’s impact is represented through a recent case: John,* a parolee from outside the Bay Area, traveled to San Francisco intending to end his life. After being arrested during an attempt, John was sent back to prison and subsequently entered the shelter system, where he began to receive the mental health care he needed. John was beginning to turn his life around, but, having failed to return to his home county, an outstanding warrant stood in the way of his access to vital social services.

The Shelter Clinic team successfully lobbied John’s parole officer to place him in non-revocable parole. Because of this, John can continue treatment in San Francisco and rebuild his life with confidence in his legal standing. John’s access to General Assistance funds were also restored which allowed him to move out of the shelter and into a single resident occupancy hotel.

“A huge load has been lifted,” said John. “Now I’ll be able to get everything I need to lead a more productive life.”

For more information about the Volunteer Legal Services Program, please email


*Client’s name has been changed.

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