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Groups partner to offer legal services to homeless veterans

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Finding legal services for homeless veterans took longer than expected, but attorneys spearheading the effort believe the solution they found will not only help former military personnel become self-sufficient but also has potential to become a model for other agencies serving the homeless.

In the fall of 2012, a group of Indianapolis lawyers working with the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation of Indiana Inc. put out a call for “good ideas.” They wanted suggestions on ways to provide ongoing assistance to help homeless veterans at HVAF overcome the legal issues that often hinder their ability to get a job and find housing.

homelessvets-15col.jpg At a special ceremony July 11, Charles Haenlein (left), of Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation of Indiana Inc., and Josh Abel, of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, signed the agreement that will provide ongoing legal services to homeless veterans at HVAF. (IL Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

On July 11, HVAF took the final step in the process and signed an agreement with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, which will provide legal services to help the veterans.

The two nonprofits marked the milestone by holding a special signing ceremony at HVAF’s main facility. Several homeless veterans who attended the event gave a hearty round of applause when the signing was completed.

Steve Benz, HVAF board chair, told the HVAF clients that this agreement means they will no longer get passed around whenever they seek help with their legal entanglements.

Instead, they will only have to tell their story once to the attorney provided by the clinic. In turn, the attorney will be part of the treatment team and actively participate as these veterans regain their lives.

“I think we landed a tremendous partner,” Benz said of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic. “They came to this program with such a level of enthusiasm.”

When the team of attorneys began the effort, they initially thought the solution would entail hiring a lawyer full time as part of HVAF’s staff. However, Bill Moreau, partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, said that idea evolved as the responses to the request for “good ideas” arrived from other attorneys and legal service providers. Barnes & Thornburg handled this project from start to finish pro bono.

By entering into a partnership with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, HVAF will be able to get legal assistance to its veterans and get a better understanding of how great the need is, Moreau explained.

The agreement runs for one year at which time the partnership will be evaluated. Benz asked the HVAF veterans to provide feedback on the program. The partnering agencies and the attorneys want to hear their complaints and compliments so the legal services being provided can be improved.

Brian Dunkel, from the clinic, will become the project attorney for the partnership. He will go the HVAF offices once a week to meet with current and prospective clients.

The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic has experience in partnering with other nonprofits. Josh Abel, executive director of the clinic, said his agency has learned from past attempts to help the homeless that working alongside other organizations is the most effective way to reach this population.

Through these other partnerships, the clinic attorneys have been able to go to where the homeless already receive some services. More important, Abel said, the lawyers can know the whole story and all the issues the individual is facing.

Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP partner Trent Sandifur has donated his services to the veterans and was part of the effort to get stable legal services to HVAF.

This partnership, he said, will enable the treatment team to get to the root cause of a veteran’s homelessness. Having the attorney onboard will allow the staff to resolve the issues rather than just put a bandage on the problem.

As excited as he and his colleagues are about this partnership, he believes the HVAF clients will become equally enthusiastic.

“Most homeless veterans are just happy to have someone on their team to be an advocate,” Sandifur said. “They are so used to the system working against them.”•

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  1. Welcome to Hendricks County where local and state statutes (especially Indiana Class C misdemeanors) are given a higher consideration than Federal statues and active duty military call-ups.

  2. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  3. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  4. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  5. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

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