February 22, 2019
Project Homeless Connect 2019
178 clients experiencing homelessness received legal help at the Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham area at Project Homeless Connect on Saturday.

41 attorneys volunteered.

6 judges volunteered hearing more than 100 cases.
Birmingham Municipal  Judge Andra Sparks  ran a full municipal court with his court personnel, and, along with  Judge   Lee Loder Judge Kechia Davis , and  Judge Chuck Price , heard 75 cases.

Jefferson County Judge Stephen Wallace  helped 34 clients by resetting cases, remitting fines, and recalling writs with the help of 7 attorneys who volunteered from the Jefferson County Public Defender’s Office.

Jefferson County Bessemer Cut-Off Judge David Carpenter  helped 12 clients clear legal issues.
Project Homeless Connect 2019
Tiara Hudson helping a client (photo credit: Shaina Hamby)
Project Homeless Connect is an annual day of services at Boutwell Auditorium designed to help clients overcome barriers prohibiting them from obtaining safe, decent, affordable housing.

Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham manages the legal area, which is the most frequented area. This is because many clients who are homeless have old fines and fees on their records that they cannot afford to pay. These fines and fees have ballooned over time and now the clients also have warrants out for their arrest for failing to appear at court.
“Our clients, who cannot even afford a safe place to sleep at night, find themselves overwhelmed with fines and fees from sometimes decades-old traffic tickets,” said  Nancy Yarbrough , executive director of Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham. “Without the help of an attorney and a judge who will work with the client, they can never get out from under this burden.”

Many of the attorney volunteers represented clients on the spot and helped them begin to turn their lives around (see stories below). Other attorneys volunteered to help clients with cases that required additional help past Saturday’s event. 
Xavier Nelson (left), Mayor Randall Woodfin, and Nancy Yarbrough (right) at Project Homeless Connect (photo credit: Cary Norton)
Lisa Borden , pro bono shareholder at Baker Donelson, is helping 10 clients resolve legal issues.  Mike Hanle , at Jaffe, Hane, Whisonant & Knight, volunteered to assist 9 clients with issues that are prohibiting them from being able to make a change in their situations.
Judge Carpenter (left) greets Mayor Randall Woodfin (photo credit: Cary Norton)
Besides Project Homeless Connect, VLB holds a free legal help desk for homeless clients on the first Tuesday of every month at Cooper Green. VLB also works with the City of Birmingham’s Municipal Court and Judge Sparks on its Turning Point court, which is a special once-a-month court for homeless clients held at Boutwell. 
Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham is the only legal aid nonprofit in Alabama with a program dedicated to helping clients experiencing homelessness overcome legal barriers.
Project Homeless Connect client stories
Client’s sentence: Read to students!
Birmingham Municipal Presiding  Judge Andra Sparks  developed the city’s homeless court and is the leader in the city court’s participation in Project Homeless Connect. Judge Sparks often gives clients “creative” sentences as was the case Saturday at Project Homeless Connect. For one client, Judge Sparks “sentenced” her to reading to local students in lieu of paying 10-year-old fines. The client must come to Judge Sparks's special Turning Point docket at a later date to provide proof that she has read to local students.
Judge Sparks held a special court for homeless clients at Project Homeless connect (photo credit: Cary Norton)
“This gives the client a chance to give back to the community while still being able to turn her life around,” Judge Sparks said.
Disabled client gets safe home
When attorney volunteer  Ida Tyree-Hyche  (Tyree Hyche & Dixon) met her client at Project Homeless Connect, the client was in tears. The disabled client had been living in a shelter where she said she had been abused by other shelter tenants. The client wanted a safer place to live. Ida went with the client to the Birmingham Housing Authority and got her a new place to live immediately.
“I’m so thankful for Ms. Ida and Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham," the client said. "I no longer have to live in fear.”
Client tells her story to Mayor Randall Woodfin
Client wants gainful employment
Attorney volunteer  Glenn Mazer  helped several clients at Project Homeless Connect including a man who lost his job and became homeless. Mazer represented the client in front of Jefferson County Judge Stephen Wallace  who set a new court case for him on an old case so that the client could get his ID. Glenn continued to advocate for the client after PHC by calling an employer who had previously passed the client over for a job working construction.
Jefferson County Judge Stephen Wallace hearing a client’s case ( photo credit: Cary Norton)
“All this client wants is to be employed, and I want to help him get that opportunity,” said Mazer, a consistent volunteer attorney with Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham.
Client can drive again thanks to Cumberland Professor
Attorney volunteer and Cumberland School of Law Professor  LaJuana Davis  helped a construction worker get his license renewed so he can drive to work. She represented the client, who was without a home of his own and had been staying with a friend, helping him get a ticket dismissed for an expired tag in front of Birmingham Municipal  Judge Lee Loder.  LaJuana helped the client prove to the judge that the tag had been switched by the mechanic and that the client was not at fault. “I’m happy to be able to get my license renewed so I can continue working,” the client said.
Attorney volunteers and judges provide legal assistance to homeless clients at Project Homeless Connect ( photo credit: Cary Norton)
Client turning his life around
Attorney volunteer  Louis Mendez  (Bressler) represented his client in front of both county and city judges at Project Homeless Connect. The client, an experienced highway construction worker, had fallen on to hard times. The client is at Alethea House and is working a treatment program. Jefferson County Judge Stephen Wallace  worked with the client to put him on a new payment plan so that he can fulfill his past fines.
Law students help check in clients (photo credit: Shaina Hamby)
The client was also placed on Turning Point, a special docket for homeless clients lead by Birmingham Municipal Presiding  Judge Andra Sparks , to address his past tickets in Birmingham. “The worst is behind me and I’m ready for the future,” said the client.
Client gets her license after two decades without one
Sarah Yates  (Bressler), longtime attorney volunteer, helped a senior citizen get her first driver’s license in over two decades. The grandmother had missed court for traffic violations 23 years ago. The interest and late fees had ballooned over that time preventing the client from being able to get a new license. She went before Birmingham Municipal  Judge Chuck Price  and they have set a plan so that she’ll be able to resolve the old tickets. “We want to be fair to the people within the boundaries of the law,” said Judge Price.
Project Homeless Connect 2019 (photo credit: Cary Norton)
Cook is happy to get back in the kitchen
When this client was turned down for a job as a cook because of an old misdemeanor warrant on his record that he didn't know he had, he didn’t know what to do. The client, who could not afford housing and had been bouncing between friends’ houses and shelters, learned about Project Homeless Connect through a friend. He came to get legal help at the Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham area and was matched with attorney volunteer and VLB board member  Amber Whillock  (Starnes).
Attorney volunteer Amber Whillock and her client after appearing before Judge Sparks
Amber represented the client in front Birmingham Municipal Presiding  Judge Andra Sparks. Judge Sparks resolved the client’s legal issues after obtaining reassurances that getting the job would help him turn his life around. “We want to provide our homeless neighbors with the opportunity to succeed,” Judge Sparks said.
A job only attorneys can do

Attorney volunteer  Ian Green  has volunteered with Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham at Project Homeless Connect for several years including Saturday where he helped several clients. “Our clients see our number one job as being able to help them manage their lives," Ian said while helping one client with three legal issues.
“We do that by helping them remove legal barriers and prioritize what they need to do put their legal issues behind them.”

Green said the legal area managed by Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham is very dynamic and fast paced. “You can get a lot done in a short amount of time."
Attorney volunteer Ian Green counsels his client before seeing a judge ( photo credit: Cary Norton)
Committed to service

Attorney volunteer  Rodrick Barge  was at Volunteer Lawyer Birmingham’s legal area at 7:30 a.m. and stayed until it closed helping 10 clients.

“It’s the least I can do,” Rodrick said. “It is a small amount time to give, but it has a profound impact on the lives of the clients we helped on Saturday.” 
Project Homeless Connect 2019
A special thank you to all our great volunteers
VLB would like to thank  Judge Andra Sparks Judge Kechia Davis Judge Chuck Price Judge Lee Loder Judge Stephen Wallace  and  Judge David Carpenter ,   Vestavia Court Administrator  Umang Patel  and Vestavia Public Defender  Melissa Doggett  as well as  Charlie Waldrep  for representing Fultondale, Irondale, Hoover and Pelham.
VLB would also like to thank all of the great attorney and student volunteers that provided legal assistance and represented clients:
Abby van Alstyne (Quinn Connor)
Nancy Anderson (Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program)
Rodrick Barge
Lisa Borden (Baker Donelson)
Wes Bulgarella (Maynard Cooper)
Jeremy Crowley
LaJuana Davis (Cumberland School of Law)
Rodney Davis
Bill Dawson
Chris Doty (Smith & Bahakel)
Ian Green
Bill Dawson (left) helps a client go over his legal issue (photo credit: Shaina Hamby)
Mike Hanle (left) and Lane Morrison (right) discuss next steps with a client (photo credit: Shaina Hamby)
Melinda Guillaume
Mike Hanle (Jaffe Hanle)
Amanda Kisor (Gaines Gault)
Kay Laumer
John Lentine (Sheffield & Lentine)
Margaret Loveman (Butler Snow)
Glenn Mazer
Louis Mendez (Bressler)
John Milledge
Lane Morrison (Lightfoot)
LaBrenda Norman
Britton O’Shields (King Simmons)
Alexandria Parrish (Evans Law Firm)
Gloria Sellers
Joi Travis
Jose Tron
Paul Wallace (Maynard Cooper)
Amber Whillock (Starnes Davis Florie)
Katie Wilson (Bressler)
Sarah Yates (Bressler)
Chris Weaver

Jefferson County Public Defender’s Office
Kate Bounds
Brian Brock
Melina Goldfarb
Tiara Hudson
Alex Mason
Texys Morris
Latonia Williams
Alexandria Parrish speaks with a client (photo credit: Shaina Hamby)
Cumberland School of Law
Kezia Battley
Allison Bendall
Kayla Cleveland
Chandler Duncan
Will Francis
Allison Hanby
Kirby Johnson
Ashley Jones
Alex LaGanke
Megan Latschrauner
JC Lentine
Brooke Messina
Alex Messmore
Megan Morrison
Elizabeth Rainwater
Sarah Rawls
Grey Robinson
Julia Simmons
Taylor Simmons
Scott Sloss
Trent Testa
JR Thomas
Ruby Villalobos
Law students volunteer at Project Homeless Connect (photo credit: Shaina Hamby)
Law students help check in clients
(photo credit: Shaina Hamby)
University of Alabama School of Law
Sarah Anderson
Alana Cammock
Nancy Gracen Klein
Clarissa Johnson
Blakely Lloyd
Michael Mertle
Kelly Steffen
Remember to follow VLB on Facebook and Twitter and visit our Facebook page to see all the Help Desk happenings and news about civil legal aid. 
Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham | www.vlpbirmingham.org