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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Doing good for the homeless.

     St. Francis House is a day shelter in Boston that serves homeless men and women. Based on the idea of affirming the value and dignity of every person, St. Francis House provides food, shelter, clothing, showers, medical care, and mental health and substance abuse counseling. The staff also provides educational and rehabilitative services to help the homeless find jobs and housing, and otherwise improve their lives.
     Sometimes St. Francis House reaches out to the community to obtain services that it would otherwise be unable to provide. For example, St. Francis House provides its clients a legal clinic at no cost. Clients are able to sit down one-on-one with a volunteer lawyer to discusss whatever kind of legal problem they have. At various times these lawyers have been provided by private firms, The Catholic Lawyers Guild, the Lawyers Clearinghouse on Affordable Housing and Homelessness, and other organizations.
     The types of legal problems run the gamut: criminal cases, landlord-tenant issues, problems regarding eligibility for public assistance, employment discrimination, and even estates and personal injury, and other types of cases. Sometimes a client's legal problem is a creation of a psychiatric problem. Everyone is treated with dignity. Legal problems don't always get solved; sometimes there really isn't a legal problem, sometimes a critical deadline has passed, sometimes the client just needs to vent.
     The lawyers who staff the legal clinic do so with no fanfare, gladly giving up some of their valuable time to help the less fortunate.

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