For almost six years, I’ve been dreaming that the Rising for Justice Social Work program would expand, and it’s finally happening. This year we’re adding three new full-time staff to the social work team, and I’m thrilled.
Most of our clients come in facing significant adversity in their lives, stressors which can compound the legal issues bringing them to RFJ in the first place.
Research shows that the threat of eviction causes so much disruption to people’s lives. Being in court and having your home on the line is an intense, stressful experience. It’s damaging to our clients’ mental and physical health, to education stability and success, and it destabilizes those struggling with substance abuse, putting their recovery in danger. The threat of eviction is a massive issue that makes everything in our clients’ lives harder than ever.
As an attorney, I’ve had clients obtain great results in a case only to return within a few months with a new case. When discussing the situation, clients have informed me of complex barriers they face, often involving financial difficulties due to other unexpected challenges that have arisen. While sometimes there is little to be done, other times clients have been unaware that they are eligible for benefits or that resources exist that might help them ease those burdens.
With an expanded social work team, we’re expecting to reach people who have previously not sought legal assistance. We can more effectively reach people, assess their needs and connect them to resources. We can also support them through the stressful litigation, integrating with the legal team to help our clients and lawyers navigate emotional minefields that can quickly become overwhelming without adequate experience and support. This will allow our attorneys to focus on the legal needs first and foremost.
We’ve also established the Client Support Fund, that will be available to help stabilize crisis situations. It can provide relief to clients who are struggling with small incidentals that are financially unobtainable and creating barriers to a client’s ability to move, should they need to.
This expansion is going to be hugely beneficial and our resilience as a team and capacity for partnering with other local organizations is going to dramatically grow through this shift, and our clients will directly benefit.
Thank you for your ongoing support, which makes this work possible!
Director of Social Work & Senior Supervising Attorney