Public Counsel's Homelessness Prevention Law Project (HPLP) serves individuals that are at high risk of becoming chronically homeless. HPLP has provided pro bono representation before administrative agencies to over 20,000 homeless individuals and families to secure food, shelter, clothing, and other vital benefits.
Emergency Food and Shelter Advocacy
Public Counsel operates one of the largest legal advocacy programs on-site in multiple offices of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), where impoverished, hungry and homeless individuals are provided with advice and advocacy assistance. Each year hundreds of volunteer law students and attorneys participate in Public Counsel CARES: Connecting Angelenos to Resources and Essential Services (formerly known as the General Relief Advocacy Project, or GRAP), advocating on behalf of clients to help them secure desperately needed shelter, food, healthcare, transportation and social services. Public Counsel CARES also influences policy decisions affecting indigent clients by engaging in regular meetings with DPSS and other County officials and collaborating with community-based organizations.
Skid Row Disability Benefits Clinic
The chronically homeless need more than a roof over their heads; they also need the medical and psychiatric "wraparound" services that might help them maintain stability in their emotional and residential lives. At present, there is a dearth of housing that includes such supportive services; however Public Counsel's new disability clinic on Skid Row hopes to help change the landscape in this regard. The clinic advocates for benefits for disabled and chronically homeless residents of Skid Row. Creating additional or increased sources of income (entitlement and medical benefits) for the chronically homeless will not only help these individuals move into, or retain, permanent supportive housing, but will also ultimately contribute to funding of subsidized housing programs, thereby stretching the limited state government dollars that have been allocated to creating and maintaining permanent, supportive housing.
Homeless Youth Project
The project provides a legal safety net to help stabilize the lives of homeless and runaway youth and youth at risk of becoming homeless. Specifically, the project provides a broad range of free legal services and trains volunteer attorneys on legal and developmental issues relevant to the lives of homeless and at-risk youth. We also provide educational workshops for at-risk youth, training to volunteers who staff weekly walk-in clinics at community-based youth services organizations, and legal and technical assistance to other nonprofit community organizations that provide social services to youth.
The Los Angeles County Homeless Court Program
Public Counsel works closely with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the Los Angeles City Attorney's office, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, and the Los Angeles County Public Defender to operate a program that eliminates minor traffic citations, warrants, quality of life citations and related fines -- all of which can detrimentally affect employment opportunities -- for those (mostly formerly homeless) individuals who complete a residential and rehabilitation program. HPLP's work with the Homeless Court Program helps these formerly homeless individuals to regain employment and stability.
At-Risk Family Services and Benefits Advocacy
Sadly, families are one of the fastest growing components of the homeless population. In response to this increasing concern, HPLP devotes a significant portion of its resources to providing direct advocacy services to at-risk families to enable them to access cash aid, food stamps, transitional housing and other essential benefits critical to the families' stability. Such services also include eviction prevention and landlord/tenant mediations through partnerships with community agencies that provide housing to persons of low income. Focused legal clinics in parts of the County where families are at greater risk of homelessness, such as Toberman Neighborhood Center in San Pedro, are included in HPLP's service plan to meet this critical need.
HPLP identifies recurring barriers that may be contributing to the instability of the homeless population and works with government agencies and community partners to create better opportunities for permanency. However, where success is not achievable through meaningful collaborations, HPLP initiates litigation to benefit both the individual clients as well as the affected population as a whole. For example, HPLP has prosecuted lawsuits against hospitals that are dumping homeless patients on Skid Row. These legal actions have forced hospitals to change their admissions and discharge practices specifically to address the needs of the homeless.