For 16 years, Latosha worked in homecare for multiple agencies to make sure she got enough hours to cover her bills. Until one day, one of the agencies where she worked abruptly shut down. Latosha was then faced with the dilemma of needing to find another job, but with something on her criminal record from much earlier, she was worried about her chances of getting hired elsewhere. Over the years, she’d never even tried. She explains, “I’ve kind of been stuck at the same job for like 16 years, but I always stayed there because of my background. I didn’t think I could go nowhere else.”
But then Latosha learned about the Legal Clinic and Project GRACE (Guided Re-Entry Assistance & Community Education) from her daughter. One facet of Project GRACE is to assist people with clearing their criminal records, which is often a barrier to employment and self-sufficiency. At her daughter’s urging, Latosha went to the Help Desk in the City County Building to seek more information regarding the program. After three separate meetings, 47 days, and the persistent assistance of a Legal Clinic volunteer, Latosha received an expungement.
But her story doesn’t end there. Due to the job loss, Latosha also fell behind on her mortgage. At first, she thought maybe she would just move into an apartment, but says, “Trying to look for an apartment became overwhelming because I was behind on my mortgage, so nobody would let me move into an apartment.” And so, she contacted the Clinic again for assistance and began to work with the Housing Department.
Latosha learned she was eligible for a government-funded assistance program called Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) to help reinstate her loan. Housing Department Paralegal, Molly Jefford, worked with Latosha to collect all of the necessary documents for the HHF application, and they were rewarded for their efforts: Latosha’s application was approved. Going forward, with her record cleared and her loan reinstated, she will be able to maintain the payments on her mortgage. Molly says of working with Latosha, “It was kind of neat to have a client who had had successful assistance initially with a different department, and then to move in and see how it all came together to help bring her to this point.”
Although initially the process of using the computer and collecting all of the documents had been somewhat daunting to Latosha, she was ready and willing to do what she needed to do. Latosha explains of her fortitude throughout the process, “I told [Molly] … ‘You’re willing to help with me paying my house and you don’t know me?’ I gotta help her back.”
At the end of our interview, Latosha has one more thing she wants to tell me. She says, “After I found out about [getting my expungement], I started posting on my Facebook page. Then the strangest thing happened this morning … [a friend told me], ‘Latosha, I want to share my good news with you—my son got his background expunged!’” In fact, she tells me, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Since her expungement, she has been messaged three times by different people with the same story. And so, by sharing her good news and the services available through the Clinic, Latosha has helped many others get the assistance they need.