The Columbus Bar Homeless Project was created by the Columbus Bar Association & the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. It is funded by the City of Columbus, the Reinberger Foundation and the Yassenoff Foundation.
The goal of the program is to provide access to quality legal services to individuals and families who are homeless and more than 100 attorney volunteers have agreed to participate by performing intake screenings at local homeless shelters.
The program currently serves CHOICES, Faith Mission on Eighth Avenue, Faith Mission on Sixth Street, Friends of the Homeless, Interfaith Hospitality Network, the Open Shelter and Rebecca's Place with weekly attorney screening sessions. CHOICES and Rebecca's Place are served on a monthly rotation.
Intake Screenings are currently held once a week (or monthly, for Choices and Rebecca's Place) at the shelters during evening hours, 5:30-7:30 p.m. These times have been chosen because of the number of attorneys who said they would be available and because the shelters are very busy at those times. If possible, attorneys will be scheduled to visit a shelter during two successive weeks to permit better follow-up opportunities.
All attorney volunteers attend substantive and procedural training prior to visiting a shelter. Free CLE credits are offered for those who have signed up for the project. Optional training events in substantive law areas are offered on a regular basis through Legal Aid's LARP program. These programs are free to LARP attorneys (Homeless Project attorneys are a part of the LARP program) and are offered for CLE credit.
A schedule is prepared which takes into account the needs of the shelters and the times attorneys indicated they are available. During a calendar year, each attorney will be asked to visit a homeless shelter four times. Each visit lasts two hours. For each two hour visit, the attorneys will be given credit for one additional hour of service that should be used to complete the paperwork and make follow-up consultations as needed. Due to the transient nature of the shelter population, follow-up may be difficult. For at least the first two visits that each attorney makes to a shelter, volunteer attorneys are advised to work in teams and interview clients together. To the extent possible, your partner or you will be scheduled to a session at the same shelter within two weeks. When necessary, attorneys are asked to pass on follow-up information to their partner or contact the person who is scheduled next at that shelter.
Volunteers will be provided with a list of attorneys who have agreed to serve as consultants for the Homeless Project. These attorneys are not holding themselves out as experts in the field, rather, they have had practical experience and have agreed to help out in areas in which volunteer attorneys may be unfamiliar. Agency Liaisons exist to help get volunteer attorneys through bureaucracy so that they can get information on special cases. These liaisons will not give legal advice.
Some information which volunteer attorneys obtain will be passed on to the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and the Columbus Bar Association. Information specific to the individuals served will not be available to any one else, however statistics gathered from the information obtained will be made available to various funders of the project in aggregate form.
In the role of intake screener, volunteer attorneys will identify legal issues. If a volunteer discovers that there is a conflict of interest with his or her employer or firm, the client should be immediately passed to the other volunteer attorney. If you decide to take the case yourself, you should check for a conflict before pursuing it.
Attorneys and possibly law students and paralegals may be scheduled at the shelters. If someone other than an attorney is scheduled, his/her partner will always be an attorney.
Regular evaluations of the program have been done and will continue to occur. Contact will be made with shelter workers, clients, LARP attorneys, and intake screeners. However, if problems arise in the program, please notify She'lia Bolding at 614/221.4112 or e-mail email@example.com immediately. We have made changes as the program grew and will continue to do so. Please help us resolve problems as they arise.
All of the intake screeners, consultants and attorneys who take Homeless Project referrals on a pro bono basis while participating in this project will be covered by malpractice insurance through the Columbus Bar Association. As a result of your work with this project, you should never take a case for any kind of fee for a homeless client.
Interested volunteer attorneys should call She'lia Bolding at 614/221.4112 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.