Last year’s summer-like St. Patrick’s Day was an anomaly and meant, for many, shorts and a t-shirt could be worn for festivities. But, for the homeless in the South Loop, the day was momentous for other, more serious reasons.
That day, DePaul launched the Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project (NLAP) and it was the first time many of them had access to free legal services. NLAP is DePaul College of Law’s signature pro bono legal help desk to help the homeless and indigent in the South Loop. Developed by the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) and the Center for Public Interest Law, NLAP operates twice a month at a free breakfast program run by the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple and located at Grace Episcopal Church.
NLAP focuses on assistance with expunging and sealing criminal records and obtaining state IDs because, as noted by Cheryl Price, PBCSI director and NLAP co-founder, “Lacking a state ID or having a criminal record can be a barrier to obtaining housing, public, benefits, and employment.” NLAP volunteers also make referrals to legal aid and social service agencies in the community for issues outside of NLAP’s purview. NLAP is staffed by DePaul law student volunteers and supervising attorney and College of Law alumnus, Damon Ritenhouse. As of April 1, 2013, NLAP has hosted 24 sessions and has assisted nearly 175 clients.
Price is pleased with NLAP’s impact over the course of the year: “DePaul College of Law is rooted in a Vincentian tradition of service and social justice. NLAP embodies that tradition. Through NLAP, we are helping some of Chicago’s most vulnerable and needy citizens while exposing our law students to pro bono work and helping them to develop practical legal skills.” NLAP is exploring the possibility of expanding its services to include executive clemency matters and is hoping to offer service every week, rather than every other week, starting in fall 2013.For more information about NLAP, please contact PBCSI Director, Cheryl Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.