Director and Staff Attorney, One80 Place Homeless Justice Project
I began my career as a police officer in New Orleans. I loved the job but realized that I actually cared more about social justice than criminal justice.
So, I went back to school and earned two masters degrees – in social work and public health. Upon graduation, I worked with at-risk youth in New Orleans and Charleston, SC.
In 1999 I joined the staff of One80 Place, a homeless shelter, as a social worker. I found that most of the people I encountered desperately needed legal assistance. Unfortunately, that wasn’t available in the agency where I worked.
So, at age 53, I decided to go to law school.
Today, I head the Homeless Justice Project at One80 Place in Charleston, to my knowledge it is the only shelter in the country that has two full-time lawyers and a paralegal on staff that offer free onsite legal assistance to individuals and families every day of the week with assistance from law students and volunteer attorneys. The Homeless Justice Project has also been instrumental in starting in Charleston a Veterans Child Support Initiative, a Veterans Treatment Court, and a Homeless Court.
Nearly half of our clients are veterans. Our goal is to remove whatever barriers our clients face so that they can move out of the shelter and into stable housing in the community. Basically we focus on problem-solving for our clients so they can move on with their lives.
It’s tough sometimes, but I never leave work without thinking that I’ve done something important for somebody. Every day, I’m making a difference.