Street Lawyering: Provision of legal aid to homeless persons

CHALLENGES

In the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, many people have found themselves in a state of marginal survival; homeless persons, users of psychoactive substances, sex workers, refugees, migrants, persons lacking legal documents, former prisoners, people with mental health issues.

In HumanRights360, identifying the need for legal assistance to these group of people, we decided to start street work, in cooperation with Steps, an organization which works on the streets of Athens, on a daily basis, offering food and harm reduction material to homeless people and to persons   who use of psychoactive substances.

Our lawyers have joined the Steps’ street work team, offering legal counseling and providing information about their rights to people who are in homelessness, in transitional hosting facilities or in inappropriate, inadequate or precarious housing conditions.

Moreover, we identify the problems that this population faces and support them, promoting and defending their rights, as well as contributing to substantial institutional changes through advocacy actions and public interventions.

WHAT WE SHOULD NOT FORGET

On 24 November 2020 the Plenary of the European Parliament adopted a resolution on tackling homelessness in Europe. Inter alia it points out that the homeless persons and other people in precarious housing conditions are at particular risk due to the pandemic COVID-19, while member States are called upon to take targeted measures to protect them. At the same time, on 23 November 2020, the Central Union of Greek Municipalities adopted the FEANSA Homeless Rights Charter, which includes the right to get out of homelessness, the right to have access to decent emergency accommodation and the right to use public space and move freely like other citizens without being criminalized.

Τoday, the need to  record the population living in street conditions and its needs, and take care of them, is becoming more and more urgent.

Provision of legal aid to homeless persons-
Defense and promotion of the rights of people living on the streets

METHODOLOGY

Legal counseling and information

Legal street work actually gives the possibility of approaching the target population where they are, in order to provide the alternative legal services, as far as the place, time and manner.

Applying the peripatetic outreach work approach, namely meeting vulnerable  people in places where they live and carry out their activities, in combination with detached outreach work, which concerns meetings at predetermined points of reference, we manage to become accessible and address to a large part of the population living on the streets, providing them legal support:

  • Legal assistance in criminal cases: review of criminal cases,
    determination of trial dates, review of address when needed for physical appearance to a police station in the framework of parole of sentence,
    contact with experts for the diagnosis of addiction to substances,
    contact with public prosecutors and judicial authorities for handling cases, referral to legal aid.
  • Assistance for the issuance of identity cards and other legal documents.
  • Provision of legal advice to refugees and migrants.
  • Legal advice for civil and administrative cases.
  • Applications support, for administrative issues for access to transitional housing structures, for the referral to treatment programs or healthcare services, always in collaboration with our Social Integration Service.
  • Interviews and records of incidents for the Racist Violence Recording Network.

Field mapping - Reports

Through a structured social history form, we keep necessary information, aiming at adequate mapping of the field of action and drawing crucial conclusions. At the same time, through public interventions on issues concerning this population, documentation texts and advocacy actions, we aim at a strategic defense of the rights of the target group, based on our field experience.

Advocacy Actions

  • Participation in the Working Group for the support and social integration of the homeless population, which is being set up to draft the National Action Plan for Homeless Persons by the Secretary-General for Social Solidarity and the Fight against Poverty.
  • Participation of HumanRights360 and Steps in the meetings of the Platform for Addiction, with the National Coordinator for Drugs.
  • Letters to competent Greek and European institutions.
  • Articles
  • Participation in conferences

Collaborations

  • Member of the Greek Housing Network
  • Cooperation with organizations which are in charge of street work therapeutic programs (KETHEA EXELIXIS, OKANA), for the coordination of referrals in the field.
  • Liaison and communication with agencies and organizations that provide specialized services and programs for the referral of beneficiaries.
  • Communication with the social services of the transitional hosting facilities as well as treatment programs for the referral of the legal requests of the beneficiaries.

With the support:

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