PRO BONO PORTRAIT | Bodman Attorneys Help the Homeless Resolve their Legal Impediments
March 2013 saw the kick-off of sessions of the Detroit H.E.L.P. program (Homeless Experience Legal Protection). During March, six Bodman attorneys, Susan Kornfield, Kim Paulson, Nathan Dupes, Karen Piper, Kate Kokotovich, and Bridget Hathaway, volunteered on Wednesday mornings to meet with homeless men and women at Detroit’s Ss. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church Warming Center. The Bodman attorneys counseled attendees on a variety of issues, including obtaining birth certificates and driver’s licenses, family law, landlord/tenant law, and checking on the status of SSI applications.
The attorneys experienced law “in the trenches,” wading through paperwork, placing phone calls, and feverishly searching the Internet. So many tasks that are routine for those with access to modern telecommunications seem like unscalable obstacles to the clients attending these clinics. Often, a phone call or web search resolved a client’s problem, such as the clients trying to find out why their SSI applications were denied. Some required more work, such as the man whose landlord took advantage of him by leaving the utilities in his name after his eviction and wrongfully retaining the $1,400 security deposit he had managed to scrape together. Regardless of the challenge, the attorneys worked cooperatively, sharing ideas and knowledge to find resolutions for the clinic attendees.
Susan, Kim, Nathan, Karen, Kate, and Bridget not only gave legal assistance, but respect as well, to a population routinely ignored and taken advantage of. They stepped out of their comfort zone to help those in desperate need. In return, the attorneys left with a sense of accomplishment – not only for providing real assistance to people, but also overcoming their own trepidations and meeting the challenge head on.