Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $83,000)
The Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to individuals and families who are at-risk of or experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia. HAP is the only legal services organization that engages in outreach to the homeless community, meeting their legal needs where they receive shelter, meals, mail, services and support, even on Philadelphia’s streets. This request for funding will focus on individuals returning from incarceration who are at serious risk of homelessness.
HAP's H.E.L.P. (HAP Embedded Legal Professional) Program is designed to enhance HAP’s free legal service delivery for more challenging populations such as individuals recently incarcerated, especially those sleeping rough. Trust and reliability are critical components to successfully reaching individuals who have been recently released and the embedded HAP project is designed with these components at its core.
To that end, the same HAP legal staff members will provide legal services at the same site, on the same weekday, and at the same time, enabling HAP to establish a reliable presence conducive to developing rapport with, and the confidence of, participants in need of legal assistance. This consistent legal staff, moreover, will be uniquely positioned to identify and address patterns or trends that adversely impact clients.
In order to ensure that HAP’s project focuses on those persons recently incarcerated and in need of civil legal help, HAP will partner with the JEVS Human Services’ re-entry program referred to as Looking Forward Philadelphia. In its re-entry work, JEVS provides an array of social services designed to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of individuals returning from incarceration. JEVS, moreover, is poised to begin its services before prison release, including completing comprehensive needs assessments which, among others, will identify areas of civil legal need. These areas may include accessing federal disability benefits; establishing eligibility for Veterans Administration benefits, health care, housing and supports; securing identification documents; enforcing child custody rights; and others.
To ensure project success, HAP will train JEVS staff on identifying legal needs and effectively referring individuals to HAP’s program. In addition to directly addressing client legal needs, HAP will help this population understand how to successfully use available networks of supports and services, and to advocate for their legal rights.