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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: PublicationsVLSP Merges with the BASF Foundation

VLSP Merges with the BASF Foundation


July 15, 2011, was the conclusion of Tiela Chalmers’ 14 years with the Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP). Many thanks to Tiela for improving access to justice for low-income people.
Tiela joined VLSP in 1997, specializing in Landlord-Tenant matters and client intake. She then moved into the managing attorney position working side-by-side with then Executive Director Tanya Neiman until Tanya’s passing in 2006. Tiela then served as the Executive Director of VLSP from 2006 to 2011.

Tiela’s primary focus at VLSP was on keeping low-income individuals and families housed, and championing the legal rights of women, families, and their children through a holistic approach that drew on the expertise of pro bono attorneys and social workers. As the leader of VLSP, Tiela supervised an organization which annually works with over 1,800 volunteers, assisting nearly 8,000 low-income and homeless clients with legal consultation and representation in nearly every area of civil law each year.

In addition to continuing the services provided by long-term VLSP projects such as Family Law and the Homeless Advocacy Project, Tiela developed innovative new service delivery models, including limited-scope opportunities and opportunities for both litigation and transactional attorneys. Among those is the Housing Negotiation Project, a nationally recognized model providing limited-scope assistance to every unrepresented individual in San Francisco during their eviction defense settlement conference.
Other VLSP projects which were launched under Tiela’s leadership include the Federal Pro Bono Project representing pro se litigants in federal court, the Consumer Debt Defense and Education Clinic in response to the fiscal crises, the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, clinics at Project Homeless Connect and the Medical-Legal Project bringing much needed legal services to San Francisco’s geographically isolated Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood.

Based on a recommendation from a blue ribbon panel made up of BASF past presidents, past and current VLSP chairs, key donors and stakeholders, the BASF Foundation will be merged into VLSP to form a single 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

As the first step of the merger, Daniel Burkhardt, Executive Director and General Counsel for The Bar Association of San Francisco and Executive Director of the BASF Foundation, has stepped into the role of VLSP’s Executive Director.

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