Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Tag: Project No One Leaves

Student Practice Organizations Panel 2019

Students attend 2019 SPO Panel

Student Practice Organizations often provide 1Ls with their first opportunity to gain practical legal experience at HLS. Each SPO is typically led by a student board consisting of 2L and 3L students and is supervised by a licensed attorney. Across the 11 SPOs currently active at HLS, a variety of focus areas including housing, immigration, and prison law are represented. Students participating in SPOs do not receive academic credit, however, their hours can count towards the 50-hour pro bono graduation requirement.

The SPO Panel, held earlier this week, provides an opportunity for students to hear directly from the students boards and members of SPOs. During the 2019 SPO Panel, representatives from all 11 SPOs spoke on focus areas, levels of commitment, attorney supervision and particularly emphasized the communities formed in each individual SPO through the work that they do.

“Community is one of our main priorities. It was a game changer for me. I met some of my closest friends, it reminded me why I decided to come to law school.” said Emma Broches, co-president of HLS Advocates for Human Rights, on her experience with SPOs.

President of Harvard Defenders Martina Tiku also noted how SPOs encourage members to interact with other students and individuals in the field who are committed to and passionate about the work that they do, reflecting the sentiments of several other panel participants.  “You get a chance to talk to people who are passionate about their work.” she said.

For students interested in joining an SPO, the organizations hold information sessions and open houses are coming up. All SPOs require some form of registration or sign-up, with several requiring separate applications. While all SPOs accept students in the fall, some  accept members during the spring term. Information session, open house, and registration/application deadline dates can be found on the  Opportunities for Student Practice Matrix.

Resources:

SPO Skills Matrix

SPO Sign-Ups

SPO Student Reflections

Tenants Pushed Out as Developers Buy Single-Room-Occupancy Properties

Via WGBH Radio

Source: John Tlumacki

DAVID GREENE, HOST: In many American cities, the cheapest rental housing is single room occupancy, or SRO units or rooming houses. These are tiny rooms with no kitchens and shared bathrooms out in the hallway. As investors buy up SRO properties in urban neighborhoods, several cities have seen low-income tenants pushed out. Chris Burrell from WGBH’s New England Center for Investigative Reporting found such renters are struggling to hold on.

RICHARD: Don’t be shy (ph). Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go. Good girl.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

CHRIS BURRELL, BYLINE: That’s Richard, a 62-year-old tenant in an SRO north of Boston. As he opens the door to his room, he makes sure his cat doesn’t dash into the hallway. NPR’s not using his full name because he is fearful of reprisals from his landlord for talking to the media.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

RICHARD: Her prior owner was a heroin addict who had OD’d. And if I have to move out, who’s going to take care of her?

BURRELL: He’s worried because the 72-unit SRO, where he lives in a windowless room, was sold last year for $2.2 million. Since then, the owner has sent eviction notices to 20 tenants; in April came notice of rent hikes. For tenants like Richard, it’s a 27% increase, from $550 to $700 a month.

Nationally, housing advocates say SROs are vital unsubsidized shelter for the poor, low-wage workers, the elderly and people with mental illness or drug addiction. SROs don’t have a great reputation. Considered substandard housing, cities in the last 50 years eliminated hundreds of thousands of rooms in the name of urban renewal.

NAN ROMAN: There’s no question that the loss of a lot of these units is a major contributor to homelessness in places where they existed.

BURRELL: That’s Nan Roman, the head of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. She says SROs, once seen as blight, are now viewed as one solution to homelessness. Several cities – Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. – are trying to preserve SROs before owners convert them to higher-end housing.

Back in Massachusetts, Richard has lived in this tiny SRO room for three years, surviving on a $700-a-month disability check. His hands tremble as he shows me the ceiling fan dangling from thin wires. He and three other tenants share a bathroom with cracked floor tiles and decayed caulking around the tub. As bad as it is here, Richard wants to stay put.

RICHARD: One of the big problems for most people in the building is, where are we going to go? We can’t afford the rent anymore, and you’re talking about elderly, disabled people.

BURRELL: He’s not alone. In San Diego, city officials last spring were helping nearly 200 people relocate after a large SRO closed. In Boston, housing advocates see a similar pattern. Eloise Lawrence is an attorney at Harvard Law School’s legal clinic, defending SRO tenants against eviction.

ELOISE LAWRENCE: People are being thrown out. That’s happening across the city because these properties now are so valued. What was considered sort of housing at the last resort is now seen as desirable and profitable.

BURRELL: But developers say running rooming houses is hard, and when the economy is booming like it is now, there may be easier options, like converting to condos. Alan Hope ran two rooming houses north of Boston.

ALAN HOPE: It’s very difficult, I think, if you’re not a professional, in maintaining a rooming house to the standard that’s required. Real estate, in general, is becoming more higher-priced, valuable. So investors are trying to get the most they can out of it. Maybe having other form of more stable type of tenants, tenants that are probably living – earning a living, and they’re not depending on subsidies.

BURRELL: Housing experts say demand for such SRO-type housing is increasing as the number of single households in America who are renters has grown to 16 million in the last decade, and many of them are facing rent levels that eat up at least a third or half their income. Building new SRO housing is one response. Places like New York and Portland, Maine, are looking at proposals to do just that.

For NPR News, I’m Chris Burrell.

Richard Barbecho wins the Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award

Via Harvard Law Today 

Credit: Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

By: Alexis Farmer

Richard Barbecho ’19 is this year’s winner of the Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award. He was chosen for exemplifying a pro bono public spirit and demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services in low-income communities. The awards are granted each year in honor of Professor Andrew Kaufman, who spearheaded the pro bono requirement at Harvard Law School.

Barbecho has integrated criminal defense, immigration, and housing law into his 2,000+ hours of community lawyering and pro bono service during his time at HLS.

Throughout law school, Barbecho has been a devoted canvasser with Project No One Leaves, spending most Saturdays in Boston’s low-income neighborhoods knocking on the doors of people facing displacement. This year, he is PNOL’s co-president and he is additionally responsible for organizing the canvasses and training new canvassers who show up each week.

As a volunteer member of Harvard Defenders for the past three years, he has had an active caseload representing low-income individuals accused in criminal show-cause hearings before clerk magistrates and, recently, in an appeal in district court. He has also been a prolific Harvard Legal Aid Bureau student-attorney.

“Richard is an extraordinary student, advocate, and person,” said HLS Clinical Instructor Eloise Lawrence. “He is always working on behalf of his clients whether it be in social security, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, employment or housing cases. His results are unbelievable — he saved a family’s home from foreclosure taking it all the way to a jury trial. He secured benefits for a family with a severely disabled child who had been denied for years. Using his fluency in Spanish and his cultural competency along with his legal acumen, Richard secured a three-year lease for an 8 unit building in Dorchester, and built critical trust with his clients.”

Lawrence also praised Barbecho’s willingness to take on additional work and commit additional hours to help the underserved during his time at HLS. She said, “He is committed to his core to using the law to make our society more just.”

Project No One Leaves and CityLife/Vida Urbana Fighting Against Mass Displacement in Boston Housing

City Life organizers speak passionately about their work at the “Gentrifying Boston” event, hosted by Project No One Leaves. January 10, 2019.

“Without City Life, many people wouldn’t know how they can do anything [to fight for their right to housing,]” said Gabrielle, one of the organizers for City Life/Vida Urbana. City Life is a grassroots group that organizes communities to fight against the forces that fuel displacement in Boston. The Jamaica Plain based organization frequently works with Project No One Leaves (PNOL), a student practice organization at Harvard Law School that informs low-income tenants of their rights. On January 10, PNOL hosted several City Life organizers to speak to the HLS community about the ramifications of gentrification in Boston.

According to City Life leaders, an overwhelming majority of Roxbury residents are at risk of being displaced. The cost of housing in Roxbury increased by 70% between 2010 and 2015. The devastating mix of displacement, capitalism, racialized gentrification, and property exploitation is what some call antithetical to local economic development in Boston. Even still, landlords are aware of the influx of newcomers that can afford to pay higher rents, thereby pushing out current residents in favor of higher profits from new residents. As more and more properties in Boston are becoming increasingly expensive, middle- and low-income individuals and families have fewer options to secure housing. When landlords raise the rents and attempt to evict residents, people are often not given sufficient notice to find suitable housing. The stress of losing one’s home and scrambling to find an alternative has serious consequences on people’s mental, physical, and emotional health. The trauma of housing insecurity affects children and young people, altering how they navigate the world and their feelings about financial security. Long-time residents lose their social ties and networks to their communities, which can in turn affect the physical systems that help fight against chronic conditions and diseases. “The social costs for displaced families, such as intergenerational health impacts, is not borne by the landlords,” said Lawrence, another organizer with City Life. Landlords and urban developers prioritize profit over community welfare. Organizations like City Life develop community leaders to fight against the forces that fuel displacement and its harmful effects through direct organizing of tenants in protest and advocacy strategies, connecting tenants to legal representation, and informing residents of their rights.

It’s an uphill battle for many residents to try and retain their housing through the court system. Landlords and property owners often have legal representation, while many tenants cannot afford a lawyer. Tenants are not fighting a fair fight – starting off with the disadvantage of representing themselves in a convoluted system that can leave people feeling culpable if they lose their home. “People are left to represent themselves in these hearings, and you don’t understand the language of the court,” Gabrielle exclaimed. Gabrielle is determined to spread public awareness of City Life’s work to helps other residents like her. “I came to City Life to get legal help after I attempted to fight with my bank on my own. I couldn’t understand what was going on even though I had nearly ten years of banking experience and a master degree in business. My bank gave me the run around for years until I came to City Life and was empowered with information about my rights. The bank was very deceptive. Many people don’t know their rights, that’s why I have decided to become an ambassador and organizer with City Life.”

Fighting against housing displacement is how City Life and PNOL work jointly to combat racial, social, and economic injustice. PNOL sometimes refers residents struggling to retain their housing to legal aid organizations like the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), which provide representation to low-income and marginalized communities in civil matters. The difference can be life-altering. Keeping people in their homes helps keep families whole and counteracts actions that destabilize communities. Boston is a historic city, but loses significant remnants of its past when communities are removed and remade. “Preserving communities and cultures are more important to me then preserving bricks for historical purposes,” said Lawrence. PNOL plays a critical role in raising awareness of tenants’ legal rights and legal services available to them. In partnership with City Life, both organizations work to develop a community-based model for social and systemic change, one tenant at a time.

Students honored at 2018 Class Day ceremony

Via Harvard Law Today

Class Day 2018 3

Credit: Heratch Ekmekjian

Tabitha Cohen (left) and Edith Sangueza, two of the many students recognized during the Class Day 2018 ceremony for various accomplishments during their time at Harvard Law School. Cohen and Sangueza (along with Annie Manhardt, not pictured) were awarded with the Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Award, given each year to students who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services in low-income communities.

A number of Harvard Law students from the Class of 2018 received special awards during the Class Day ceremony on May 23. They were recognized for outstanding leadership, citizenship, compassion and dedication to their studies and the profession.


Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award

This year’s Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award was presented to Tabitha Cohen, Annie Manhardt and Edith Sangueza. (Read more)

Edith Sangueza contributed nearly 2,000 pro bono hours by working with three student practice organizations – Harvard Immigration Project (HIP), Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights, and Project No One Leaves – in addition to working as a student attorney for four semesters with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB). She spent her 2016 Spring Break volunteering with South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, in Harlingen, Texas, and her 2017 Spring Break volunteering with American Gateways, in San Antonio. Her commitment to social justice also extended throughout her summers – she worked with Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, in Mexico City, and with the Bronx Defenders, in New York.

Three students win Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Awards 1

Credit: Lorin Granger

Tabitha Cohen and Annie Manhardt

At Harvard Law School, Tabitha Cohen and Annie Manhardt both participated in the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) and the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI). At PLAP, they spent hundreds of pro bono hours as co-executive directors, managing a multitude of daily internal governance and programming issues. Throughout their time, they demonstrated tireless effort and dedication to advocating for the needs of prisoners by conducting investigations, counseling and interviewing clients, and presenting compelling arguments at hearings.

In a precedent-setting case for an elderly disabled parole client Cohen argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court whose ruling extended the Americans with Disabilities Act to mentally and physically disabled prisoners seeking parole. As a result of the case, the state must now help parolees get support systems in place in the community.

While at HLS, Manhardt also worked with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts and the Office of the Defender General in Vermont. Cohen worked with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program , the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Florida and La Fundacion para el Acceso a la Justicia de Puerto Rico in San Juan.

The Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award is granted each year in honor of Professor Andrew Kaufman ’54, who has been instrumental in creating and supporting the Pro Bono Service Program at HLS.  J.D. students in the graduating class who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to pro bono work receive the award and an honorarium.

HLS requires all students to perform 50 hours of pro bono services but most go far beyond. This year, 10 students exceeded 2,000 hours of service and 112 students volunteered more than 1,000 hours.

In total, the Harvard Law School Class of 2018 contributed 376,532 hours of pro bono legal work.

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Project No One Leaves: “Though our efforts are modest, our team is mighty”

By Lark Turner, J.D. ’18

Group photo of Project No One Leaves

I signed up to canvass with Project No One Leaves a couple of weeks into my first semester at Harvard Law School. I didn’t know much about the organization, and I was nervous about jumping in a car with 2Ls and 3Ls I had never met, to drive into neighborhoods I had never been. But I’m so glad I did. My Saturday mornings spent canvassing taught me some of the biggest lessons of law school.

Though Harvard students are lucky to have many venues to work on housing justice, Project No One Leaves is one of the only organizations on campus that teaches students what it feels like to participate in the community part of lawyering. Working with the veteran organizers at City Life Vida Urbana, an anti-displacement nonprofit and Boston community anchor that fights foreclosures and evictions, we identify specific properties or whole neighborhoods where evictions or foreclosures are occurring or imminent. Then we set off to try and help City Life stop them.

Every Saturday at 10 am, fueled by bagels and coffee and armed with clipboards, we hop into cars and set off to East Boston, Chelsea, Dorchester, or other Boston neighborhoods to knock on doors and talk to residents about their rights as homeowners and tenants. As a former reporter, I was used to bothering people on their doorstep at odd hours. But I had never done so to promote a cause I deeply believed in, nor to connect a person to resources they might urgently need — all while convincing them to rely, even a little bit, on a gaggle of students in matching red T-shirts standing incongruously on their stoop. Even without the added obstacle course of Boston traffic, this was much harder than my old job.

I learned new lessons: How to greet the curious pull of a curtain with a friendly shout of introduction, and how to know when to walk away; how to interrupt folks as they make breakfast for their kids to tell them, maybe for the first time, that their landlord was foreclosed upon and no longer owns their home; and how to listen for the infuriating and ubiquitous music of canvasses — the beep of smoke detectors in homes where landlords can’t be bothered to change a battery. Hardest of all, I learned how to spot when we are too late. Sometimes that means addresses marked in coal-black, modern fonts; enrobed in fresh paint; and outfitted with a glinting security system. More often it means vacancies — homes boarded up or halfway gutted, their families long gone. Even then, I learned to leave a red bag full of legal information hanging on the doorknob — a sign to the developer, and to the neighborhood, that we stopped by.

Though our efforts are modest, our team is mighty. The students I met at my very first canvass have graduated, but we’re still friends. Every canvass introduces me to more fellow students ready to spend their Saturday morning helping keep roofs over families’ heads. Like many things I’ve experienced here, the opportunity to work with these peers and with City Life is a gift I can’t repay, and it’s difficult to leave my time in Project No One Leaves behind. But I’m heartened to know that next year’s team of canvassers have it covered — and the lessons I’ve learned and friends I’ve made canvassing aren’t going anywhere.

Erika Johnson ’17 wins David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Lorin Granger/HLS Staff Photographer Erika Johnson ’17

Credit: Lorin Granger/HLS Staff Photographer
Erika Johnson ’17

Erika Johnson is this year’s winner of the David A. Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award. The award is named in honor of the late Clinical Professor of Law David Grossman ’88, a public interest lawyer dedicated to providing high-quality legal services to low income communities. The award recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects.

Having contributed more than 2,000 hours of pro bono services to clients through the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), and Project No One Leaves, Johnson is the embodiment of Grossman’s tireless pro bono spirit. She was chosen for her compassion in legal practice and for her contributions to HLS’s clinical community.

Her clinical supervisors at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau recall one elderly client Johnson protected from homelessness. The client had been living in supportive housing for homeless elders for almost ten years, but after the facility went smoke-free he had trouble quitting and faced eviction. Over the next six months, Johnson attended more twelve court hearings, fighting tirelessly to stave off the eviction, but the client’s disabilities made it impossible for him to stop smoking. Realizing that her client had nowhere else to go, Johnson built a relationship with a social worker and found him an apartment with medical support services. Johnson even made sure to find him a bed and then physically moved it and most of the client’s other belongings into his new home on a cold winter’s day.

In another eviction case, Johnson followed her client’s lead in pursuing greater racial and economic justice. The client felt strongly that he had been wronged by his landlord, arguing the language used against him was racially biased. “Erika listened, at length,” said Clinical Professor Esme Caramello, who teaches in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Johnson convinced the HLAB Board to take the case and then fully devoted herself to researching and drafting legal documents, achieving not only the dismissal of the eviction but also moving to recover damages for her client.

“Erika’s approach [was] creative, but it [was] her persistence in following the client’s lead despite the ‘typical’ trajectory of such a case, and the steadiness of her hard work, that have impressed us the most,” her clinical supervisors said.

“I am grateful to the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau for its support and its embodiment of the values David Grossman modeled as a teacher and lawyer,” said Johnson. “Dave’s compassion, dedication, and commitment to community and to our clients are inspiring to every member of HLAB. I feel honored to have been part of this community, and I will rely on this experience and these values in all of my future work.”

On campus, Johnson has also collaborated with the Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project, a student practice organization that hosted a competition in which students created technology solutions to access to justice problems in the local housing courts. She met with the student leaders of the project, taught them about the court system and the challenges unrepresented tenants face, trained them in basic eviction law and procedure, and then judged the final projects. Her clinical supervisors noted that she did this expertly and almost entirely on her own — all as a second-year law student with a full course load and a substantial docket of housing cases.

After graduation, Erika will pursue a career in public interest law, a choice that she says was shaped by her HLAB clients and colleagues.

Getting to know Boston through Project No One Leaves

By Michele Hall ’17 

Group photo of HLS students participating in Project No One Leaves

Group photo of HLS students participating in Project No One Leaves

The only way I’ve gotten to know Boston over the past three years is with my feet. I spent much of the fall of my 1L year protesting the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the subsequent state failure to hold their killers accountable. It was through those protests that I learned Boston: by walking through the Boston Commons, holding signs in front of the State House, marching past TD Garden and over the Tobin Bridge. Through civic action, I felt in community with Boston in a way that was impossible poring over my casebooks in Langdell.

In the spring of my 1L year, I was determined to find another way to be in community with Boston. That’s when I found the Project No One Leaves (PNOL), a student-run organization, whose mission is to empower citizens to protect their homes and communities through grassroots organizing, legal education, and civic engagement. Every Saturday, HLS students, public health students, alumni, and community members go door-to-door in Boston neighborhoods experiencing a high rate of foreclosures and evictions, and inform people of their legal rights. Throughout most of my time here at HLS, we’ve focused on bringing the news of people’s housing rights directly to them. Often times people don’t know that only a judge can order an eviction, that they don’t have to accept cash for the keys to their home, or even that their home has been in foreclosure. As PNOL foot soldiers, we sought to dismantle knowledge barriers so that people had the tools to fight for their homes; so that they did not leave. We connected people with the community organization City Life/Vida Urbana, which has expanded from doing anti-foreclosure work in Jamaica Plain to anti-gentrification and mass displacement work in East Boston. In other words, PNOL connects people with organizing movements dedicated to protecting their community.

Through the hours that I’ve spent Saturday mornings over the past three years driving to Roxbury, Dorchester, East Boston, and countless other places, I’ve not only been able to feel Boston’s pulse, but I’ve also found my community at HLS. With our ragtag team of canvassers bundled up in cars brimming with people, we’d talk about everything from how the lack of dental care in low-income communities is a public health crisis to whether Bagelsaurus’ bagels are bagel-y enough (the jury is still out on this one, but no one can debate that they fix a fine sandwich). I met regular canvassers and board members who became my co-counsel in City Life cases that we took at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, close friends, and even my fiancé. We’d share in excitement when we’d talk to people who were starting to pack up all of their belongings to get out of their homes because they got a “cash for keys” letter and didn’t know they had an option to stay; we held each other in silence when we walked down deserted blocks of East Boston as cranes towered over the buildings they were poised to raze and gentrify. PNOL became a home for me, as I worked in community to help keep Boston’s inhabitants in their homes.

This year, I served as co-president of PNOL, though that label means little to me because our board is so egalitarian. In January, in response to the executive orders that prioritized deportation, our board decided to expand the meaning of No One Leaves to include no one leaving this country. We quickly mobilized to adapt our canvasses to include Know Your Rights components, and handed out fliers at the Maverick train stop in 20-degree weather. What I’m most proud of as part of my work with PNOL is that I’m surrounded by a community of people, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, who are dedicated to keeping this community that we have right here in Boston; who are dedicated to making sure that no one leaves.

“My time with Project No One Leaves constantly reminded me why I came to law school…”

Matt Nickell, J.D. '14

Matt Nickell, J.D. ’14

By Matt Nickell, J.D. ’14

I started going to Project No One Leaves’ Saturday morning canvasses in my first year of law school. Project No One Leave (PNOL) stood out to me when I got to HLS because it was one of the only organizations on campus that got law students out of Cambridge and into Boston communities to do housing justice work. Project No One Leaves was started by HLS students at the start of the economic crash in 2008 to connect people facing foreclosure with legal resources and community groups that could help them defend against foreclosure and eviction. Canvassing with PNOL was a great way to see and enrich my understanding of Boston’s geography, history, and culture. More important, it gave me the opportunity to work side-by-side with community organizers, homeowners, and tenants as part of a broader movement resisting the forces that perpetuate poverty, inequality, and segregation.

My time with PNOL these past three years has been tremendously eventful. A pivotal experience was attending my first meeting at City Life / Vida Urbana, a community organization (and PNOL ally) that brings together tenants and homeowners facing foreclosure and eviction to fight back against banks and predatory investor-landlords. The level of energy, activity, and engagement in the room was a testament to the transformative power of communities to transform lives and neighborhoods through direct action. Another major highlight was helping organize PNOL’s fourth annual foreclosure conference earlier this year. We drew 250 lawyers, community organizers, professors, and others from over eleven states to talk about the current state of the foreclosure crisis, including the new dilemmas we are seeing on the ground and the solutions needed to address them.

The most important thing about PNOL for me has been the people. Canvassing with PNOL allowed me to work with amazing students whose commitment to social justice has been incredibly inspirational – people like my Co-President Tyler Anderson, whose thoughtfulness and diligence kept the organization’s gears moving these past two years; our Conference Director David Curtis, who helped organize and run our conference this spring; and our Canvassing Director Donna Harati, who mapped out and planned many of our canvasses this past year.

The people I met during PNOL’s weekly canvasses have been equally inspirational. Almost every homeowner and tenant who answered my knock at the door was extremely kind and courteous, but many had sad stories to tell that could move anyone to tears. Homeowners had been preyed on by banks that exploited their vulnerability, tenants did not know whom to contact about needed property repairs and health code violations, and many had recently lost jobs, health insurance, or family members. Fortunately, many of the people I met became active advocates for change themselves, attending City Life meetings and speaking out against the predatory practices that devastated their communities. As a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau’s Foreclosure Task Force, I had the privilege to work with a number of the homeowners and tenants I canvassed, defending them against eviction in Boston Housing Court. But the real strength of the people I met came from their families and their communities, not from within the courtroom.

My time with PNOL constantly reminded me why I came to law school and redoubled my commitment to working in the public interest. To be part of an organization that allowed me to work with non-lawyers and non-students to push forward a grassroots model for systemic change has been a tremendous privilege. Though of course I wish that foreclosure and displacement would stop plaguing the communities I care about, I hope that organizations like PNOL continue to bring people from various backgrounds together to make those communities healthier, happier, and stronger.

Harvard Law School’s Project No One Leaves Hosts Conference on Continuing Foreclosure Crisis

Via The Harvard Crimson

Project No One Leaves, a foreclosure resistance organization run by Harvard Law School students, hosted its fourth annual conference this weekend.

The conference brought together community organizers, attorneys, and activists from around the United States to share and discuss strategies for defending those threatened by or going through foreclosure.

“There are a lot of different ways that you can fight the foreclosure crisis and the conference is a great way for people from different groups…to put their heads together and figure out what we can do about this crisis,” Matthew E. Nickell, the co-president of Project No One Leaves and a student at the Law School, said.

Attendees from New York, California, Washington, Illinois, and elsewhere discussed the stabilization of neighborhoods, government responses to foreclosure, the role of banks in the crisis, and other topics.

Continue reading the full story here.

Events: Nov 9 through Nov 15

We hope you will join us for some or all of these events this weekend and next week:

What: Coordination of Sandy Efforts for Students
When: Fri, Nov 9, 12–1pm
Where: WCC Milstein East C
Details: HLS Events Calendar

What: Project No One Leaves: Community Responses to the Foreclosure Crisis Conference
When: Fri, Nov 9 – Sun, Nov 11
Where: Harvard Law School (various locations)
Details: Project No One Leaves website

What: Advocacy for Boston-Area Veterans: Unmet Needs and Pro Bono Opportunities
When: Mon, Nov 12, 12–1pm
Where: WCC Milstein West B
Details: HLS Events Calendar

What: Knowing Your Legal Rights: A Seminar for Military Veterans and Families
When: Wed, Nov 14, 5–7pm
Where: WCC 1010
Details: HLS Events Calendar

What: Negotiation in the News: Negotiating a Ceasefire in Syria
When: Thu, Nov 15, 12–1pm
Where: WCC 3012
Details: HLS Events Calendar

Reader Recommendation: Project No One Leaves Featured in Spare Change

Recommended by one of our readers:

This week’s Spare Change highlights Project No One Leaves, a collective founded in 2008 by Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) members David E. Haller (JD ’09) and Nicholas J. Hartigan (JD ’09) to “empower citizens living in foreclosed properties to protect their homes and communities through grassroots organizing, legal education, and civic engagement”.

In related news, the Harvard Crimson profiles Joseph P. Kennedy III (JD ’09) and discusses his contribution to Project No One Leaves during his time at HLAB.

Happy reading!