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USC Law Student Connects the Dots on Preventing Homelessness


USC Law student Marlena McMurchie worked on the CARES team at Public Counsel

USC Law student Marlena McMurchie's work with Public Counsel CARES has "helped to remind me why I went to law school in the first place," she says.

While at Public Counsel in summer 2012, McMurchie worked with the CARES team (Connecting Angelenos to Resources and Essential Services), advocating for poor and homeless clients who are being denied or having trouble receiving their benefits.

Public Counsel CARES is a signature program that has matched pro bono volunteers with people in need for nearly 20 years. "It allows me to work directly with the homeless, something in which I was very interested," McMurchie told USC Gould School of Law, which profiled her in its 2012 magazine. "Beyond providing legal services, arguably the most important part of what we do is in being able to listen to these peoples' stories, look them in the eye and tell them that they're not alone. It's amazing going into the office and asking, ‘What can I help you with?' and the way people open up to that."

Over the years, the CARES project has given hundreds of law students and pro bono attorneys real-life experience in battling homelessness in Los Angeles County, where more than 50,000 people scrounge for shelter every night. For many, it has been a taste of real justice that has left them hungry for more.

"Surveys have found that loneliness, or social isolation, is the thing homeless people hate the most about being homeless," McMurchie said. "We provide basic human interaction that they're deprived of day to day. That's the part that really draws me to this project."

If you would like to get involved in the CARES project or find out more about summer law clerk program at Public Counsel, please visit the CARES page

Click here to read the full article at USC's website.

Photo by Meghan Heneghan