Chris, Ashley, and Cassandra are brainstorming strategies for going against FACE Low-Cost Animal Clinic in Round 1 of Brackets For Good 2018--and they have a theory on why their opponent is so competitive.
This February, Director of Legal Services Brian Dunkel wrote a message to followers about what it really means to love your neighbor and how our new client intakes are the first step in that process for the Clinic. We then dug in deep with Ft. Wayne Director Desiree Koger-Gustafson, learning how she changed her path from a medical career to a legal career.
People are thinking about how to make the legal system work for actual people, and not just people with law degrees. We've still got a long way to go, but I am hopeful that we can begin to simplify access to our legal system as the years go on. The thought-experiment that we are doing is asking, "What would the legal system be like if it were made to be accessible?" Imagine that.
Desiree Koger-Gustafson’s grandmother knew she was going to be a lawyer before Desiree did. For years, Desiree worked in the health field, harboring a desire to go to Medical School one day. But as she pursued this dream, she kept hitting roadblocks. “I retook the MCAT several times, my GPA was where it should be, but I could never get in,” Desiree says. “So I started to think maybe this wasn’t the direction I was supposed to go in.”
At the Clinic, we have a lot to love! Our last Justice For All Gala was our most successful ever--raising $152,440.09 thanks to all of our supporters! We also welcomed four new Board Members in the past few weeks, like Todd Fisher, Carol Hartman, John Gurchiek, and Lori Torres! And we got to participate in the Spirit & Place Festival for the first time this past fall, helping more people in our community understand the needs of ex-offenders!
This experience with Keith, though brief, gave him visible relief from the burden of uncertainty he was facing. And my interaction with Keith is not unique. In fact, since 1994, the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic has made its services accessible to our low-income neighbors through intake sites located in neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis.
This January, we shared Executive Director Chris Purnell's thoughts on what it means to walk alongside those in need and to receive such care well when we ourselves are in need. This whole year, we will be exploring the theme of Belonging through our social media and blog posts. And, as the year goes on, we hope to learn more about how you participate in this community as well.
Carol Hartman first learned about the Clinic after a fortuitous Internet search. “I was looking for a way to do some volunteer work that was faith-based,” she says. “I went on your website and clicked on a link to volunteer.” For years, she sought opportunities that would utilize her unique set of skills. “I’ve worked in the tax world since the beginning of my career both as a CPA and as a lawyer. And I was wondering how I could best use those experiences to advance the Kingdom.”
Chase and his team wondered if the same dealership might have procured judgments against other individuals using false evidence. “Our intern for the summer did a review and found 322 other similar cases,” says Chase. “The total judgments were close to $2 million dollars.”
Recognizing God’s provision is often pivotal to the work that Michael does—most especially when that work is messy. “[At times, I find myself] working with some pretty broken situations and still not being able to fix them,” he says. On occasion, there are no good options for our clients; a foreclosure cannot be prevented and Michael finds himself in the position of having to deliver bad news. “I don’t like it when things don’t work,” he says. “My hope is that we can offer assistance of some sort often, yet it sometimes doesn’t take the shape that people are hoping for.” But even when things don’t work precisely as his clients would like, Michael is there to walk through the process alongside them.
The psalms say that, “God is near to all who call on him, who call on him in truth” (Ps. 145:18). Our clients call out as they feel stymied and oppressed; our staff-team calls out as well; God comes near and provides guidance, comfort, and belonging.
In 2011, according to the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention, 24% of all people experiencing homelessness were under the age of 24. In 2014, there were 354 homeless youth just in the Indianapolis area alone. What are the causes of youth homelessness? What are the unique challenges faced by homeless youth? And what services are available to assist those in need?
“[Her abuser] would force himself on her and would tell her that, ‘You’re my girlfriend—this is what you’re supposed to do,’” says Grecia. “She thought it was okay and she blamed it on herself because one incident did occur in front of her daughter.” According to Grecia, Josefina became even more wracked with guilt when her daughter, who was very young and who loved her father, begged her, “Please don’t send Daddy to jail.”
According to a study from the Center for Criminal Justice Research, part of the Indiana University Public Policy Initiative, even a 1% decrease in Marion County's recidivism rate could save taxpayers $1.5 million. To help support the work of Project GRACE, please consider making a donation this #GivingTuesday.
Dee Dee Gowan was only 21 years old when she was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy. Her first duty station was the Naval Ocean Processing Facility at Ford Island, a small island inside Pearl Harbor. For three years, she lived and worked in Hawaii, but was assigned to her next duty station at the Pentagon during the First Gulf War. On her last day in Hawaii, Dee Dee looked through the plane window and promised herself that when she had a family of her own, she would return. But three decades passed, life got in the way, and the promise she made to herself went unfulfilled.
This five-part video series explores the challenges faced by those who re-enter society after prison, as well as the power they can reclaim over their own lives through expungement and specialized driving privileges.
This October, we celebrated a record-breaking Justice For All Gala, featuring keynote speaker and NYT best-selling author Bob Goff. Leading up to the event, Board Member Matthew Barr shared his thoughts on why his firm, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, chooses to financially support the Legal Clinic. After the event, we summarized some of the best JFA highlights and shared a video featuring a client family that survived a genocide in Ethiopia.
Too often, a criminal record strips people of their power in our society. Some can’t find a job; some can’t drive. Some lose contact with their families; some have nowhere to live. Instead of talking to them, people end up talking about them. It’s dehumanizing and demoralizing--and that’s not how the Clinic wants to talk about our clients.
As a veteran who served in the Navy during the Vietnam era, Gordon had seen more than his fair share of life's difficulties over the years. After his service ended, for a time, his life started to go off track. Due to substance abuse issues, Gordon lost his job. He started to rack up debt. Eventually, he lost his home.
Keynote speaker Bob Goff encouraged those in attendance to bring their beliefs and actions into alignment with one another, telling everyone to, "Synch it up!" He said that doing this might be frightening, but that we should be even more afraid of complacency, saying, "The most dangerous thing we can do is play it safe; we were born to be brave!"
In many ways, our community is at a crossroads when it comes to helping our neighbors and friends achieve a basic level of justice. One path leads to increased marginalization of the poor and lost opportunities for parents and children struggling to keep their homes, find jobs, avoid persecution or abuse, or reenter society. Another brighter path leads to increased access to justice, providing life-changing peace of mind and hope for those in our community who currently have none.
This September, our Immigrant Justice Program has been especially busy. With DACA ending soon, the Clinic hosted three separate DACA days to help those eligible to renew complete their paperwork before the Oct. 5 deadline. In a recent blog post, Executive Director Chris Purnell shared his thoughts on how we ought to Abide with the DACA Youth through these uncertain times.
In 1994, the Legal Clinic finally opened its doors to the public, but it was slow going at the start. “I don’t know how many people we helped that first year,” Lynn says, “But you probably wouldn’t have to take off your shoes to count them.” Since that time, the Clinic has expanded to serve more than 10,000 low-income people annually, with over 35 staff members, a satellite office in Ft. Wayne, numerous intake sites around the city of Indianapolis, and a team of committed volunteers.
After becoming a lawyer, John found himself missing the active role of faith in his professional life. “Because of the separation of Church and State, the Law is very irreligious,” he says. He sought for a way to bring his faith and work closer together. Once he became acquainted with Clinic founder and then-Executive Director Abby Kuzma, John saw a chance to marry these two discrete aspects of his life. He joined the Clinic Board in 2005.
Even awful things are better with other people. Currently, many of our clients are worried about a future that looks uncertain and bleak. Our young immigrant neighbors who have been here since they were children and are wondering why they are now considered “illegal” have just lost some hope. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) provided many of our immigrant youth with the ability to get a driver’s license, a job, and to pay taxes.
This month at the Clinic, we are gearing up for our next Justice For All Gala on Oct. 5! You can reserve your ticket here now--and if you do so before the end of August, you can get 20% off the regular ticket price by using the coupon code AUG20OFF!
Outreach wants to change the lives of the youth that walk through its doors. And it wants to do so in a manner that reminds them not that they are homeless, but that they are valued and loved. “I think that the facility has created a platform and an environment in which a young person that finds themselves homeless can be seen,” says Eric.
Those who came through the simulation started by receiving a specific refugee identity and backstory. They then made their way through various stations that simulated a refugee’s arrival and settlement in a camp. One station focused on food, showing the stark contrast between the amount consumed by the average American versus the typical weekly allotment for refugees, which consisted of a handful of rice and lentils, seven small carrots, a few root vegetables, and some sugar snap peas.