The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) thanks the law firm and law school volunteers of a unique pro bono collaboration. Every week, JDC’s Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) runs a clinic at a shelter with Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and UC Hastings College of the Law. One or more Orrick attorneys, along with five to fifteen Hastings students, staff the drop-in legal clinic at San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter, MSC South (the Shelter). The Shelter houses 380 homeless people every night, some for extended periods of time, and others for just one night. Hastings students work under the supervision of HAP attorneys Elinor Roberts and B.T. Dang to interview shelter residents. They identify clients’ legal issues and provide information and referrals to needed resources.
For clients who have unresolved warrants, a team of one Orrick attorney and one or two students work to identify the source of each warrant. The attorney takes the matter on full scope to clear the warrant. This is a critical intervention for homeless clients because an open warrant can prevent access to public and federally-assisted housing, government emergency cash assistance, food stamps and veterans’ benefits. It can also be a barrier to a driver’s license and credit.
Some warrants are decades old, some were issued in other states, while others may have been resolved long ago but require additional steps to be formally cleared from the record. Sometimes an extensive search identifies no outstanding warrants, much to a client’s relief. In every case, the client has advocates dedicated to removing the barriers to achieving housing and stability.
The HAP-Orrick-Hastings team served over 300 clients in 2016. Its many meaningful successes for clients include negotiating payment plans for restitution, and connecting clients with resources in other states to clear warrants. The other successful component of the program is that Hastings students gain valuable interviewing and client experience under the supervision and mentorship of Orrick attorneys.