This seminar will explore the many facets of homelessness and poverty and the role of legal and community advocacy in addressing its causes and alleviating its consequences. Students will be introduced to the myriad societal problems and individual challenges that intersect in homelessness and will work on developing solutions to those problems and challenges. Throughout the semester, the class will be building towards developing a strategic advocacy plan to address one of these problems/issues. Students will develop the skills needed to lay the groundwork for such plan to become a reality. The course will be very skills focused, exploring the variety of tools in a public interest lawyer's tool box that stretch beyond traditional notions of legal practice.
Throughout the semester, students will engage in a number of in-class problem solving exercises which will require students to identify a client's problem(s) or issue(s); define the client's goals; and develop advocacy strategies to help the client attain those goals.
Each student is required to commit to a brief "service-learning" activity, connecting directly with a person or people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This could include serving a meal at a soup kitchen; taking a "Street Sense" vendor to lunch; helping a job-seeker prepare a resume; or another activity which is of interest to the student and well-suited to the student's talents and gifts.
In lieu of one research paper, students will develop a portfolio of written materials to advance an advocacy strategy centered around a substantive topic of the student's choosing. The portfolio will include: strategic advocacy plan; sign-on or "dear colleague" letter; advocacy letter; fact sheet; testimony; social media materials; outreach materials and a plan for a community meeting.
Our objective is for students to gain an understanding of the complex legal and social issues that intersect in homelessness, as well as the different ways lawyers can address such issues. We want students to think "outside the box" of a traditional law practice and become familiar with other tools that can help clients achieve their goals. Students will learn about the considerations that go into developing an advocacy strategy and how to prepare the materials needed to implement that strategy, crafting advocacy messages for varied audiences and decision-makers.