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HERO CENTRAL: The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless

10:27 PM, Jul 16, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON DC (WUSA) --- Due process is the right of every individual in this nation, but not everyone can afford it.

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless provides free, legal services for the poor. Founded in 1986, the clinic operates with over 200 volunteer lawyers. 

In 2002 Washington native LaJuan Brooks and her three children faced being homeless after living one year at an emergency homeless shelter. 

"I was given a letter of termination by the director because I had overstayed my time," Brooks recalled.

Time had run out at the shelter. But Brooks didn't have the funds to move.

"I didn't know, at the time, what my rights were as a client of the shelter. I didn't know what steps needed to be taken," Brooks said.

Brooks needed legal advice, and she needed it for free. She was put into contact with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless at one of its seven intake centers, and she got a lawyer.  

"I was really impressed," Brooks said. "I didn't know that there were attorneys that were out there specifically working with clients that were in my position."

Brooks soon realized she needed legal aid for another reason: she was dealing with a mice infestation at the shelter.

"I got a cat and [it] almost got me put out of the shelter," recalled Brooks.

The shelter policy did not allow for pets, but the Legal Clinic was able to fight for her right to keep the cat as protection. Brooks explained the shelter was just overrun with mice.

"To see the kinds of injustices that people who are homeless have to suffer purely as a result of their poverty is something that the Legal Clinic was formed to counter," said Patricia Mullahy-Fugere, the Executive Director.   

Because of the help of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Brooks was able to extend her stay at the shelter. Eventually she was able to transition into stable housing. 

Impressed with what the Clinic had done for her, Brooks decided to give back to the non-profit.

"One of the interns that I had the opportunity to cross paths with, suggested that I contact them to do some volunteer work," Brooks said.

"So that was how I got intertwined with them not only on a personal level, but on a professional level as well."

Brooks is now an administrative assistant for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. She is the first point of contact for clients. 

NOTE: The Gannett Foundation provided a donation to The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

Produced by: Elizabeth Jia
9NEWS NOW & WUSA9.com

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