The 2010 U.S. Census data released on September 16 revealed that the poverty population has increased by 14.3 percent or 43.6 million people since 2000. This means that for a family of four, the poverty line equals an annual income of $22,050. Nearly 57 million Americans now qualify for civil legal services. The poverty rate for single-mother families stands at 38.5 percent—the highest percentage since 1998. In 2009, 24.5 percent of children under age five were living in poor families and 46.4 percent were living in families considered low income (200 percent of the federal poverty level). Read the summary and full report.
This data is no surprise to poverty advocates. We see the effects of underemployment, lack of affordable housing, food and health care every day. We see it in the desperate and sometimes resigned looks on our clients’ faces. These numbers are a call to action for all of us. As a society, we cannot accept that the basic human needs of our population cannot be met. We must stop accepting homelessness as a way of life, and we must be ensure that everyone has equal access to justice. We need to, among other things, work on having food programs that ensure children and their families have access to healthy food and live in healthy communities. We must also ensure that our seniors and disabled veterans have livable incomes. This means we have to change how we think and work with our clients and communities. As the saying goes, "If you always do what you have always done, you’ll always get what you have always gotten." That’s why at LAFLA we are expanding our partnerships with law firms, law schools and community-based organizations and approaching problems with systemic advocacy both in courts and with policy makers, so that we make actual and long-lasting change.
Last year, I reported that LAFLA along with two of our partners, Inner City Law Center and Neighborhood Legal Services had received a contract to do homeless prevention work in the City of Los Angeles. The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program represents a synergy between our legal work and social services: the lawyers work on the housing issues through negotiations with landlords, and our social workers provide needed support services to deal with the persistent social problems faced by our clients.
This means that clients like Mrs. Chu and her husband, former small business owners who not only lost their business but also their home in 2009, get to stay in their apartment through the interventions made by our attorneys and social workers. It means that our law firm partners help an elderly, disabled homeless Vietnam veteran keep his social security benefits through their work at the Skid Row Clinic, started by our community partner, the Los Angeles Community Action Network.
With pro bono firms, we have created a bankruptcy clinic to address the growing number of clients who need guidance in the bankruptcy process, and are also working with law schools to prepare the next generation of public interest lawyers for on issues ranging from veterans benefits to housing and employment.
I hope that you will join us in searching for viable and long-lasting solutions to the needs faced by our communities. With resolve and commitment we can face future generations and tell them we did our part in forging an end to poverty.
Silvia R. Argueta, Executive Director
LAFLA is pleased to welcome Sean Escovitz, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, Thomas P. O’Brien, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, Ethan J. Brown, Latham & Watkins LLP, Mildred Segura, Reed Smith LLP and Pauline Stevens, Morrison & Foerster LLP. LAFLA and our clients benefit from the generous and dedicated service of the Board, and we appreciate its commitment to helping us deliver high quality legal services to the community.
Please plan to join us on Wednesday, November 17 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for our 12th Annual Access to Justice Dinner. LAFLA will honor Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for the Second District with the Access to Justice Award. Stephen D. Yslas, Corporate Vice President and General Counsel of Northrop Grumman Corporation, will be the recipient of the Maynard Toll Award for Distinguished Public Service and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP will be recognized with the Pro Bono Service Award.
The event is not only an opportunity to pay well-deserved tribute to the evening’s distinguished honorees, but also salutes LAFLA’s dedicated staff who strive daily to ensure that our community’s poorest and most vulnerable residents are not denied access to our civil justice system because of their poverty.
In its 11-year history the Access to Justice Dinner has raised more than $5.5 million to sustain LAFLA’s services. Dinner sponsorships are available at the Angel ($50,000), Benefactor ($25,000), Sponsor ($10,000) and Patron ($5,000) levels; tables are $3,000 and individual tickets are $300. For more information or to purchase tickets, please contact Development Director, Kathleen Sheldon at (323) 801-7916 or email@example.com.
Every month in 2010 more bankruptcies were filed than in the corresponding month in 2009. Los Angeles saw one of the highest increases in the nation, which means LAFLA’s Consumer Unit has seen a dramatic increase in requests for bankruptcy assistance over the last year. Obtaining pro bono assistance in the area of bankruptcy law has been extraordinarily difficult due to conflicts raised by the involvement of lenders. In order to assist the rapidly growing number of clients’ requests, Managing Attorney, Ana Storey of LAFLA Consumer Law Unit, and Pro Bono Director, Tai Glenn teamed up with Loyola Law School and Borowitz & Clark to create a course that teaches students the basics of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcies, through both classroom instruction and participation in a weekly bankruptcy clinic at LAFLA’s West Office.
Barry Borowitz describes the partnership: "Being involved with Loyola Law School and LAFLA has been a great experience and will accomplish two very important things for debtors in our community. First, we are fulfilling the immediate need of those less fortunate to get some real help and guidance in solving their financial problems and putting them on the road to a fresh start. Second, we are teaching tomorrow’s bankruptcy attorneys today, and therefore, we can encourage them to follow a career that will help those less fortunate than themselves."
Other bankruptcy clinics in the Los Angeles area offer only self-help assistance with a limited number of participants able to obtain additional help from a legal services organization. This clinic goes beyond the self-help model, providing counsel and advice, and assistance in preparing for hearings. The class began in August to great reviews by Loyola faculty. The clinic launched September 16, and to date, Loyola Law students have assisted 20 low-income clients assess their personal financial crisis and decide if bankruptcy is the right solution. Soon the clients will return for their second appointment, during which the students will prepare their bankruptcy documents.
Pro bono attorney, and consumer bankruptcy specialist, M. Erik Clark of Borowitz & Clark stated, "I am thrilled to be a part of this project. LAFLA, along with the students of Loyola Law School, is filling an urgent and important need in the community by helping Los Angeles residents with limited resources achieve a fresh start through the bankruptcy process. By thoroughly analyzing these individuals’ financial situation we are making sure that bankruptcy is the best option available to begin rebuilding their future."
National Pro Bono Week
October 24 -30 will mark the second National Pro Bono Celebration, sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. On May 15, the State Bar of California’s Board of Governors passed a standing resolution that supports the celebration, commends California attorneys for their ongoing pro bono contributions, and reminds all State Bar members that by engaging in pro bono work and providing financial support they can make a difference. LAFLA is a member of the SoCal Pro Bono Managers, which is hosting a National Pro Bono Week Event with the Los Angeles County Bar on Wednesday, October 27 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Judge Howard Matz will make the keynote address, and the event will include four one-hour MCLE presentations on ethics, substance abuse, and elimination of bias, with a focus on pro bono representation. Attendees will be given the opportunity to interact with public interest law firm representatives at the informal reception. Please click here to register for the event.
Pro Bono Week Training/Defending Evictions
This free training will be available at the Practicing Law Institute (PLI) in San Francisco and by webcast on Tuesday, October 26, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The training has been approved for MCLE credit (5 hours General, 1 hour Elimination of Bias). The State Bar Office of Legal Services and the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, in conjunction with the SoCal Pro Bono Managers and PLI, will host. Gibson Dunn’s Pro Bono partner Joseph Marra III and LAFLA’s Pro Bono Coordinator Phong Wong are part of the training team. To register, please click here.
This year, LAFLA’s Family Law Unit is holding events and a training that focus on the barriers that immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault face as they seek to escape the abuse. Lack of immigration status forces undocumented abuse survivors to stay in dangerous relationships because they fear deportation and separation from their minor children. Their immigration status also leaves them ineligible for the employment and education opportunities that would enable them to achieve personal safety and long-term economic self sufficiency. Working with our Immigration Law Unit, and in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council, LAFLA will host a free symposium and MCLE training at The California Endowment on October 11, 2010.
Noted national domestic violence and immigration law expert, Leslye Orloff of Legal Momentum, will give the plenary address on the immigration remedies available under the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. LAFLA is offering a training for 20 lawyers, each of whom has agreed to represent a LAFLA client on VAWA and U-Visa practice. Concurrently, LAFLA will train 30 social service advocates on how to help these clients work more effectively with their immigration lawyers.
Long Beach Marathon
On Sunday, October 17, 2010, runners, cyclists and walkers will participate in the 2010 Long Beach International City Bank ICB Marathon & Half Marathon. And once again, LAFLA is an official charity of this event. In addition, volunteers from the Long Beach Client Council and Long Beach/Harbor Area Council, who are working to raise funds for LAFLA, will join LAFLA staff at our information booth located at the Health & Fitness Expo on Friday, October 15, and Saturday, October 16. Booth staffers will promote LAFLA’s domestic violence prevention work, and help educate the community about Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To find out more about volunteering at LAFLA’s Expo booth, please contact Rusty Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joined on the stage by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, John Trasviña, LAFLA’s Director of Advocacy and Training, Dennis Rockway, addressed a plenary session at HUD’s 2010 National Policy Conference in New Orleans this summer, which was attended by some 900 HUD officials and grantees.
Rockway spoke about the promise of HUD’s Section 3 Program, which seeks to provide jobs, training and contracting opportunities on HUD-funded construction projects for tenants of HUD-assisted housing and other low-income residents. With union construction jobs providing up to $50 per hour in wages and benefits, the path through a skilled, trades apprenticeship program has been described as the quickest transition from zero income to the middle class.
Carmelitos Tenants Association v. the City of Long Beach is the first case in which HUD has ordered a jurisdiction to restore economic opportunities, in this case, 3,000 hours of high-wage employment and $3.2 million in construction contracts to low-income residents on future projects that otherwise would have no such requirements.
HUD has identified enhanced enforcement of the program as a priority in promoting greater economic opportunities for low-income communities.