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Legal services provider partners with nonprofit to help homeless veterans

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A partnership between two Indianapolis nonprofits will provide for the first time ongoing legal services to homeless veterans working to become self-sufficient.

The Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation of Indiana Inc. and the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic have entered into an agreement that will dedicate an attorney to focus on untangling the legal issues that ensnare many homeless veterans at HVAF.

A group of attorneys and the HVAF began looking for ways to bring legal help to homeless veterans in the fall of 2012. They first put out a call for “good ideas” and then enlisted the help of a consultant to analyze the proposals that were submitted by other attorneys and legal service providers.

The effort reached a milestone July 11 when HVAF and the clinic signed the agreement during a special ceremony. At 4:14 pm July 11, Charles “Chuck” Haenlein, HVAF president and CEO, uncapped a fountain pen and Josh Abel, executive director of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, retrieved a ball point pen from his coat pocket. Then the pair leaned over the conference table and signed four copies of the agreement.

Starting Aug. 1, attorney Brian Dunkel, a staff attorney at the clinic, will devote 20 hours per week to clients at HVAF. He will be a part of the agency’s treatment team, working directly with the caseworkers and other staff members to resolve the issues that are preventing veterans from finding permanent homes.

Trent Sandifur, partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP and board member of HVAF, maintained that often the root cause of a veteran’s homelessness is a legal issue. For example, overdue child support could hinder a veteran’s ability to get a job and a suspended driver’s license could hamper a veteran from getting to and from a job.

On top of this, veterans may not be receiving the benefits they are entitled to because they get overwhelmed by the paperwork required by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We don’t want any of our clients in a situation where they become frustrated and then give up,” Sandifur said. “The important role the attorney plays is being the advocate and helping to navigate the bureaucracy in addressing their legal needs.”

The agreement runs for one year. Steven Benz, HVAF board chair and associate general counsel at Eli Lilly & Co., encouraged the veterans at HVAF to give feedback on their experiences working with the attorney. Their input will be used, he said, to make the program better.

If the partnership is successful, Barnes & Thornburg partner Bill Moreau believes it could become a model for other agencies serving the homeless. He said that while working to build a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Indianapolis during the Bart Peterson administration, he learned about the importance of delivering legal services to these individuals.    

“I am completely convinced this is the right way to take the first step in this effort,” Moreau said. “The clinic will provide a very, very experienced attorney at relatively low financial risk to HVAF.”


 

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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