to be Christian.
The Union Gospel Mission, an established and successful Seattle charity organization since 1932, receives its funding through private donations and relies
very little on grants, with about $21.8
million in total support last year. That
independence gives the Mission a lot of
freedom to support a new venture, such
as a legal clinic, and it gives the clinic a lot
of freedom with its clients, Mace explains.
“We don’t have to turn away people
from outside King County, or if they are
undocumented citizens [a condition of
most federal grants]. There is no arbitrary screening or financial test at intake.
It’s a matter of who can find us, and if it’s
getting slow, we reach out to case managers,” Mace says.
A Different Clientele
The typical client of Open Door Legal
Services is not homeless in the sense that
they are living under bridges or sleeping
on park benches, Mace says. In those situations, a person is preoccupied with their
safety or food, or perhaps their mental
health issues are not under control. Most
of Mace’s clients make their appointment
or come to the walk-in clinic once they
have a little housing security.
“Most clients are in some sort of transitional housing. When they’re on the
streets, they don’t have the bandwidth to
deal with their legal issues,” he says.
Running a law firm for homeless clients makes Open Door Legal Services
unique in terms of client management
as well. Mace knows that his clients have
many pressing priorities other than their
legal matters, and months or years sometimes pass between client visits.
“We do not predict in advance who
can and cannot follow through… [we] try
to involve a client as much as possible,”
he says. If a document is on file in the
courthouse, for example, the attorney will
send the clients to get it themselves, and
in doing so give the client some owner-
ship over their own success. The strategy
also saves staff time and proves to be an
effective way to see which clients are in
a position to follow through. “It reduces
our workload,” Mace says, “and if they’re
not getting the little things done, it lets us
self-identify whether they are ready and
they can select out early.”
This year is a deadline for the federal
government as well, as the U.S. Veterans
Administration seeks to end veteran
homelessness by the end of the year. Some
cities, such as New Orleans and Salt Lake
City, have proudly ended veteran home-
lessness in recent months. The federal
effort, called “Opening Doors,” began in
2010, and has reduced the homeless vet-
eran population by 33 percent. The most
recent data on Seattle’s veteran homeless
population found that about 20 percent
of shelter residents are veterans.
Anne Durbin, a veterans’ transitions
program case manager at the Salvation
Army, is one case manager who refers
clients to Open Door Legal Services.
The residents of the Salvation Army’s
William Booth Center, a 30-bed facil-
ity for veterans, have their temporary
housing paid by the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs. By the time they reach
Durbin, they have enough stability to
begin to address the issues that led to
their situation, making them ready to
work with an attorney.
1501 4TH AVE, SUI TE 2800, SEAT TLE, WA 98101 PH. 206.624.6800 /
Medical Malpractice / Personal Injury /
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Michael S. Wampold, J.D.
PAR TNER, P WRLK
UW SCHOOL OF LAW, 1996
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