The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
July 11, 2012

More Ways to Combat Homelessness

Last month, The PBEye discussed two very important ways that in-house attorneys can use pro bono to help those experiencing homelessness. However, the opportunities to assist don’t end there.

Counseling Nonprofits that Combat Homelessness or Assist Homeless Individuals
Nonprofits, including those dedicated to combating homelessness or assisting homeless individuals have been severely impacted by the fragile economy and many are in desperate need of help.  Without adequate resources many nonprofits are unable to afford counsel, yet going without could prove to be even more costly.  In-house attorneys can aid these organizations with their legal needs, which consume time and finances that are better spent elsewhere. By advising the organizations that help the homeless, volunteer attorneys are indirectly assisting all those who benefit from the organization.

Nonprofit organizations face myriad complex legal problems.  Many of these issues are familiar to in-house attorneys and include matters related to governance, employment law, contracts, intellectual property, real estate, and taxes.  Legal departments, like those at Gap, Inc.**, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company**, UnitedHealth Group Incorporated**, and Verizon Communications Inc.**, assist nonprofit organizations by conducting legal audits and providing ongoing advice and counsel.  By volunteering their time and skills to address the legal health of nonprofits, in-house attorneys can greatly impact the lives of all the individuals that nonprofits aid.

Staff a Clinic at a Homeless Shelter
In addition, many in-house attorneys assist homeless people in legal clinics dedicated to individual client needs. For instance, attorneys at CenturyLink, Inc. in Denver (formerly Qwest Communications) have volunteered at local homeless shelters, including Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). Participating in the CCH clinic has been a popular initiative, with four or five CenturyLink attorneys conducting assessments of 15 to 20 clients per month, as well as taking cases from the clinics, involving a variety of subjects such as inheritance, child support, and immigration matters.

On the west coast, attorneys from a number of legal departments in the San Francisco area volunteer with the Homelessness Prevention Project, a joint project between the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo and the Pro Bono Project of Silicon Valley, which focuses on landlord-tenant matters to help clients avoid homelessness.

Back east, the Homeless Advocacy Project runs an Adopt-a-Shelter project, in which law firms or legal departments staff a legal clinic on a monthly or bimonthly basis, addressing issues including child custody, credit, landlord-tenant, and public benefits.  Legal departments that participate include CIGNA Corporation**, Comcast Corporation, Exelon Corporation**, Lincoln Financial Group, Merck & Co., Inc.**, and The Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack**.

To learn more about how your legal department can get involved with providing pro bono to combat homelessness or assist homeless individuals, contact Eve Runyon director of CPBO.

** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

Hat tip to PBI intern Sherri Golkow for her help on this post.

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