An array of spokes comprise the Women, Family & Children hub of the Public Service Project (PSP). People living through poverty face daunting obstacles on a daily basis. The family unit, a last bastion against total loss, is under constant stress. In tandem with legal services providers, we have found several ways to defend against this loss, and begin building anew.
The PSP is committed to helping women overcome domestic violence. We help our clients obtain divorces, custody, support, visitation and orders of protection. Working primarily with Her Justice, our Family Court Team has over time acquired valuable experience and expertise in representing women and their children in particularly challenging circumstances. Our work in this area has been repeatedly awarded.
Keeping a Roof Overhead
When already living on the margin, losing one’s home often means homelessness. That is hard enough to a single adult, but for a parent with children, it is a nearly impossible situation. The PSP’s Housing Court Team goes where it is needed most – into housing courts all over the city – to prevent unfair evictions and to remedy hazardous and health-threatening substandard housing conditions. Working most often with the Urban Justice Center and Legal Services of New York, our role is to keep a roof over our clients’ heads and a safer place to raise their children.
Seeking Asylum and Protecting Trafficking Survivors
Our asylum clients are often women who have incurred the wrath of their native country’s patriarchy by challenging established religious, political and sexual orthodoxies. Alongside expert legal services organizations such as Human Rights First and Immigration Equality, we have represented courageous women from Mali, Nepal, Sudan, Tanzania, Russia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Palestine. In one recent matter, we successfully obtained asylum for a Guinean woman who suffered female genital mutilation as a child, only to survive domestic violence and cultural oppression as an adult.
Guiding Pro Se
Navigating a crowded and complex family court system without counsel can be perilous, particularly when the stakes – support, custody, protection – are so high for besieged families. Unfortunately, the need for pro bono counsel is so overwhelming that it is impossible to meet. A stop-gap measure, with outstanding results, calls for providing finite, same-day guidance to pro se litigants on their way to or from the courtroom. At these critical junctions, even basic information can be extremely helpful.
Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) targets the dire consequences for under-resourced families caught up in family court. We were the first firm in New York City to train its paralegals to work alongside LIFT staff in both family court and criminal courts, providing basic information and guidance to the poor. The PSP also provides LIFT itself with pro bono general counsel on a broad range of legal issues. We have worked with LIFT since 2002, providing almost 2,500 hours of free legal services over that time.
Over 12 years ago, we were among the first firms to join the legal community’s struggle against human trafficking. Since then, we have worked on behalf of men and women, victims of labor and sex trafficking, domestic and international. We have successfully partnered on T-visa cases with Sanctuary for Families, joined former Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-trafficking task force, helped form and advise nonprofit organizations leading the cause and serving survivors, provided research and analysis on emerging issues and legislation, co-authored a report on state-based laws regarding trafficking reporting and health care, and represented many trafficking victims as they reclaim their lives. Likewise, our work on behalf of survivors of human sex and labor trafficking often brings us together with clients who are women, and whose servitude was predicated on their poverty and their dream of supporting their family. We recently helped secure a significant restitution payment which will go far to help secure our client’s recovery.