Anne Arundel County Attorneys provided free legal advice to 70 people at this year’s Homeless Resource Day. More people than ever took advantage of the 4th Annual Anne Arundel County Homeless Resource Day on Saturday, March 26, 20011. For the first time ever, there were lines for services. 400 participants were reported in 2010 and more than 500 were counted this year. The event was held at Glen Burnie High School from 8:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. which is two hours more than last year. In addition to legal services, participants received medical and dental care, could get a haircut, and meet with many benefit provider agencies. The MVA was on site to provide IDs and vital statistics was there to provide birth certificates.
The wide range of expertise of the volunteer attorneys was essential to address the varied needs of those seeking legal advice. Bill Davis, Public Defender and Anne Leitess, Assistant State’s Attorney were able to answer the many questions about criminal records and expungement. Family law attorney Kari Fawcett and Anita Bailey, head of Anne Arundel County Legal Aid, were kept busy with the many family law questions. Legal services benefited from the presence of other Legal Aid attorneys Amy Siegel and Margaret Leonard who deal with the many issues facing the homeless every day. The Legal Aid attorneys who staff the Glen Burnie Self Help Center, Sarah Frush and Lonni Summers, were also able to draw from their center experience to help the homeless.
45 people were served last year. This year, 45 people had been served by 11:00 a.m. By the end of the day, 70 people received free legal advice. Like last year, the morning was the busiest time. Many seeking legal advice had questions that involved multiple legal issues. The number one question, again, involved criminal records and expungement. There were just about as many family law questions. Problems concerning housing and denial of benefits were a close second. Other issues included employment, foreclosure, wills and personal injury. (See Homeless Resource Day 2011: Statistics for more detail.)
MVLS, The Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Service partnered with the AABA this year. One of the benefits of this partnership was access to the MVLS umbrella malpractice insurance.
Next year we hope to have more attorneys with expertise in the area of family and criminal law. It will be helpful to create an expungement information packet for all of the volunteers so that they all would be comfortable advising on this issue. We are already looking for attorneys to help with the benefits questions.
DSS has asked in the past about the possibility of offering court services at Homeless Day. We will investigate how services such as disposing of outstanding warrants, filing of fee waivers and/or petitions might be offered.
The number of questions asked and the number of people receiving assistance shows what a valuable service this is. The work and time donated by all of the attorney volunteers was more than appreciated by all served.