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Sara Sommarstrom

Vetlaw Director at Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans

 

 

I run a legal assistance program within a social service agency in Minnesota, and our mission is to end homelessness among veterans.  That may sound like the impossible dream, but we have come a long way in the years that I’ve been involved in this field.

Our organization started a series of legal clinics back in 2009 because we noticed that so many homeless veterans were encountering housing barriers because of their legal issues.  And, it was so difficult for the veterans and their advocates to find free or affordable legal assistance!

I connected with ABA’s Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, which has made a tremendous impact on my work.  The Commission connects people across the country who work together toward solutions.  So many of these people have become dear friends.

Today, MACV offers legal clinics at Veterans Administration hospitals, community events around the state, and legal advice and representation through our attorneys on staff.  It’s important to help people understand their options, and what resources are available to help. We strive not to duplicate services and make a lot of referrals to our local legal aid partners.

We need more attorneys who will really listen to veterans and give them the respect that is earned when someone serves in our military.  It’s a powerful thing to be able to help.  It’s what I’m most proud about in my career.

Veterans are incredibly grateful for the assistance, even when there may not be a legal solution to their problem.  I’d like to encourage lawyers to look in their communities for opportunities to help our veterans.  We’re still far from meeting their needs.

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