Get­ting called to the bench

LAWYERS HELP THE HOME­LESS

Guardian Express - - NEWS - So­phie Gabrielle

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.”

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d445549

Street Law Cen­tre prin­ci­pal so­lic­i­tor Ann-Mar­garet Walsh with Prue Cam­bell, vol­un­teer grad­u­ate lawyer at Corrs Cham­bers West­garth.

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