Each spring semester, as preparations are underway for the annual Home Court basketball game, several Georgetown University Law Center students spend some time with us as part of a “mini-fellowship,” becoming immersed in the substantive work of the Legal Clinic. They each commit to work thirty hours on a variety of projects with the staff, assisting with research, outreach, testimony prep for clients, and much more. Established in 2006 at the suggestion of 2005 Home Court student Chair Lindsay Amstutz, the Lane Evans Home Court Fellows Program is designed to forge a stronger connection between the students and the substantive work of the Legal Clinic, which they work so hard to support through their fundraising efforts.
The fellowship was named to honor Congressman Lane Evans, who was captain of Home Court’s Hill’s Angels for a number of years, until his battle with Parkinson’s disease led to his retirement from Congress. Congressman Evans passed in 2014. The fellowship is one of the many wonderful benefits of our partnership with Georgetown University Law Center on Home Court. The opportunity to form relationships with students each year as well as share in this important work is hugely important to the Legal Clinic. We – and most importantly, our clients – benefit greatly from their invaluable support.
Some of this year’s Lane Evans fellows reflected on their time with us, and we’d like to share their words with you.
From Julia Mizutani:
Most students at Georgetown Law walk past Central Union Mission or CCNV every day on their way to class, meaning that most days they will walk past at least a handful of individuals experiencing homelessness before they rush up the stone steps of school with coffee in hand, ready to learn about justice, yet forgetting to apply what they learn to the communities outside of their textbooks.
Working at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless this semester gave me a taste of the city I chose to attend law school in, the city with the highest homeless rate, and the city with the nation’s highest concentration of lawyers. While most law students, and most lawyers, do not choose to work in the field of housing or human services, after working at the Legal Clinic I can’t help but imagine how quickly things could change in DC enough of us cared.
My second day at the Legal Clinic I did outreach at DC General, the largest family shelter in DC, only a couple miles south of the U.S. Capitol and a short walk from RFK Stadium, but a place most people in DC will never visit. Speaking with women waiting outside of Harriet Tubman, the women’s shelter down the road, and with families staying in DC General was illuminating. They were living proof of how quickly this city is changing and at what cost. I spent most of my time at the Legal Clinic doing outreach with community members by phone, or in person through various shelter visits and community events. I listened to the testimonies of many individuals and families in preparation for several of the DC Budget and Oversight meetings so that their stories, comments, and thoughts could be heard by those with the power to change the policies that impact them. Through these testimonies and conversations, I had the opportunity to understand the ways in which programs such as Rapid Rehousing and vouchers impact the lives of those they are meant to serve.
Working with the staff attorneys at the Legal Clinic has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my time at Georgetown thus far, and I would recommend it to any student who is interested in working alongside passionate and dedicated lawyers in a field desperately needing more of us who care.
From Jan Oeking:
The Lane Evans Fellowship program for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless gave me a fantastic opportunity to get involved in the DC community. I had a wonderful experience serving as a fellow and I learned much about the legal and personal issues our clients face every day. I was involved in community outreach at homeless shelters around DC with other fellows and attended hearings at the zoning commission to see our attorneys counseling for our clients. I had the chance to speak directly with clients about their issues and to work with them towards more impactful advocacy. For me as an international LL.M. student this personal interaction with clients was the most meaningful experience I had as a fellow.
The Lane Evans Fellowship program for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless is a wonderful opportunity for JD and LL.M. students to help the community and advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations in DC. I highly recommend the fellowship program to everyone that is willing to get involved in this great community.
From Brooke Pinto:
I had a wonderful experience serving as a Lane Evans Fellow for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless this semester! It was incredibly meaningful to have the chance to speak directly with clients about their interests and find ways to work together in order to provide more effective advocacy on behalf of the Clinic’s clients. I enjoyed participating in outreach to various homeless shelters around DC, as well as helping to create a new Homeless Survival Guide for service providers and clients to reference when in need of assistance. I absolutely recommend the fellowship to anyone who is looking to get out into the community to advocate on behalf of, and alongside, vulnerable populations in Washington.
From JeanAnn Tabbaa:
I really enjoyed working at the Washington Legal Clinic this semester. Something that struck me immediately was how eager people were to share their stories of their difficulties with housing and homelessness. I had expected that people would be hesitant to talk about their experiences, but I instead found the people were very willing to share their stories with me, and beyond that, wanted an opportunity to share their stories with the community. People living in homelessness or struggling with housing are members of the community of Washington, DC just as much as anybody else and the contrast between their desire to be engaged in the community and the lack to which they are in reality, highlights the degree to which they are pushed away, ignored, and isolated. From a policy perspective, I really enjoyed taking my property classes as a first year law student alongside working at the Clinic because it brought the varying perspectives, and “the balancing of interests,” so frequently talked about during law courses to life. The most valuable thing in policy choice – any zoning decision, any development plan, any affordable housing program – is to remember that beyond the “balancing of interests” between parties with “competing goals,” there is still a fundamental humanity and all people should be respected and treated with dignity. I hope to keep this experience with me and remember the common humanity that all of us share when dealing with goals that appear to be conflicting throughout my career.