“When people come in, there is a
pretty structured packet we go over with
them, and one item is about their goals.
And typically their goals are to get into
housing, addressing their mental health,
and health care,” Durbin says. Clearing
up legal issues usually makes these goals
easier to achieve, she says, and she is
quick to send a client to Mace’s walk-in
clinic on Fridays.
Durbin sees her clients at the cen-
ter with many of the same legal issues
Mace addresses. But, she says, veterans
can have unique issues. Depending on
how they left the military, they may not
be eligible for some federal tax benefits
or health benefits. One unique legal is-
sue is petitioning for a client’s veteran
status to be upgraded from a “dishonor-
able discharge” to a “less-than-honorable
discharge”; this change opens up tax
benefits, some federal benefits, and pos-
sible payments. Clients who are still not
eligible for federal health benefits are
directed toward the Apple Care program,
which has proven invaluable to giving
homeless vets medical care.
Durbin says that sometimes the hard-est part about working for the homeless
is being patient as a bureaucracy reaches
a decision on a client’s matter. One client, she says, waited seven months to be
approved for Social Security Disability
Insurance, during which time he had no
real income. When the letter of approval
arrived, along with back payments, her
client could finally afford to move into
Open Door Legal Services focuses on
the individual client work and doesn’t
have the staff or resources to delve into
larger issues affecting the community as
a whole, Mace says. Advocating on issues
like housing reform or removing questions about criminal records from job applications is done instead by groups such
as the American Civil Liberties Union,
Columbia Legal Services, and the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project at Seattle
University School of Law.
Vanessa Hernandez, staff attorney
at the ACLU, works with the Second
Chances Project and helps people with
criminal records overcome the associated
barriers. Criminal records block access
to employment and housing, and can be
a major contributor to homelessness. To
address these issues, Hernandez and fellow attorneys at the ACLU help individual
clients try to have conviction information
removed from their record when possible.
They also teach housing agencies or government agencies about how conviction
data can and cannot be used.
“A conviction record means being categorically barred from housing and employment, and having a crushing amount
of legal financial obligations and debt,”
A major accomplishment has been
the so-called “ban the box” initiative —
legislation to keep questions about past
convictions off job applications until later
in the hiring process.
“I’ve been effective allowing my cli-
ents to have conversations with employ-
ers beyond their criminal record,” Her-
nandez says. “Without ‘ban the box’ or
other initiatives like that, it prevents that
conversation from happening.”
The ACLU of Washington and Co-
lumbia Legal Services recently released
a report calling for the state to reform
On average, a person spends
two years thinking about divorce
before taking action
The factors that increase the odds of divorce aren’t always obvious.
Like having a daughter. Commuting 45 minutes or more. Or living in a red state.
We created “Anatomy of Divorce” because the right knowledge can go a long way.
Find it at
We protect what our clients value most.
Ranked Tier 1
in the Seattle
the field of
*AV®, BV®, AV Preeminent® and BV Distinguished® are registered certification marks of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance
with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies.