The Legal Aid Society of Orange County’s Homeless Legal Outreach Project (LASOC-HLOP) creates opportunities for the homeless to access necessary legal services. For over five years, through HLOP, LASOC has partnered with the Orange County Homeless Outreach Court, located at the Community Court in Santa Ana.
Each week, a judge offers individuals an opportunity to clear their offenses through alternative sentencing such as community service or counseling. The system is designed to help the homeless get back on their feet and reestablish themselves in society. During court hours, local organizations send representatives to provide their services to help court participants access a range of other social services.
Supervising Attorney of Special Projects, Renato Izquieta, represents LASOC at the OC Homeless Outreach Court. Izquieta, along with paralegal, Richard Silva, offer legal advice and aid for the homeless with civil matters such as housing and public benefits.
Every Tuesday, Izquieta arranges a walk-in clinic for the participants of the court or the community who are in need of legal assistance. Through HLOP, LASOC is able to provide the more comprehensive legal services to homeless and indigent clients. Izquieta explains, “Here at LASOC, we assist holistically. Many [homeless] have a variety of legal problems, not just one, and we are able to transfer them to our different departments to aid them with their legal issues.” From counsel on healthcare and social security to wraparound services, HLOP takes steps towards helping these clients address a range of poverty related issues. Not only is LASOC partnered with the OC Homeless Outreach Court, but it is also partnered with organizations throughout Orange County that provide food, shelter, counseling, and job training to individuals and families who are homeless and those at risk of homelessness.
Izquieta continues, “We are reaching out to most disenfranchised group in society today. […] because they may have difficulty reaching out, by being at the court, we can help make the connection.” LASOC’s impact in the community has grown to extend beyond legal representation; projects like HLOP increase the availability of crucial civil services to all, regardless of their financial circumstances.