Getting called to the bench
LAWYERS HELP THE HOMELESS
STREET Law Centre principal solicitor Ann-Margaret Walsh says seeking legal advice can seem less important when you are struggling to find food and shelter.
“Imagine waking up having slept on a bench; the legal issues would go to the bottom of your list of things to do,” Ms Walsh said.
Street Law Centre, a not-forprofit association, will celebrate its fifth year of operation on Thursday, after receiving its initial pilot funding from State and Commonwealth governments in 2010.
Funding has continued since then, but Ms Walsh said they were in the process of negotiating future funding with the State Government and had a commitment of funding from the Commonwealth until 2017.
The service provides legal advice and assistance to those experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.
“It’s all done with outreach, so we go to places where the client group are hanging out,” Ms Walsh said. “We work with community service agencies, soup kitchen-type agencies and various resource centres where the client groups go.”
Ms Walsh said tenancy issues and fines were the most common reasons her clients sought legal advice.
“The feedback we get is that it’s good we are there and that we are highly accessible,” she said.
“Looking forward I would like the centre to have greater sustainability, for it to be more secure and sustainable.”
Volunteer law graduate Prue Campbell said her time with the service had been a valuable experience.
“It’s been a great opportunity to develop law skills that I otherwise wouldn’t have,” Ms Campbell said. “It teaches you to look at legal issues in a different way and really focuses on outcomes.”
Street Law Centre principal solicitor Ann-Margaret Walsh with Prue Cambell, volunteer graduate lawyer at Corrs Chambers Westgarth.