We are so fortunate to have an integral role in legal help for the homeless in New Orleans. In addition to working closely with the Homeless Experience Legal Protection program of shelter legal clinics there, attorney Sherry Dolan also acts at the coordinator of the New Orleans Homeless Court, and serves on the ABA’s Standing Committee on Homelessness and Poverty. Recently, Sherry and Lilia Valdez-Lindsley, Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist for the New Orleans Veterans Administration, had the opportunity to host John Cassap, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellow, on a tour of several New Orleans area collaborative partners in that city’s efforts to end homelessness. Cassap works in homeless outreach in England as an Assertive Outreach Worker for the organization Changing Lives, and is traveling the United States for six weeks gathering information about how various cities have been successfully tackling the problem of homelessness.
Pictured above (left to right) are Ed Drish of CRCC, Baker Donelson’s Sherry Dolan, and guest John Cassap.
The first stop on Cassap’s tour was New Orleans, with good reason. The city has successfully become one of the first to essentially eliminate homelessness among area veterans. Collaborative partners in this effort include the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. and New Orleans Interagency Council to Ending Homelessness, the Veterans Administration and VA Community Resource and Referral Center, New Orleans Homeless Court, UNITY, local shelters and many other governmental and private organizations working to assist local homeless citizens.
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is among the UK’s continuing commemorations of the heroism of Winston Churchill. Each year, the Trust awards Travelling Fellowship grants to UK citizens to travel abroad and carry out research in a range of fields, with the goal of exchanging ideas and best practices, and building greater understanding between peoples and cultures. Cassap’s fellowship aims to explore a fresh approach to solving homelessness and its accompanying complexities. The group visited the New Orleans Homeless Court, Liberty’s Kitchen (helping homeless youth develop employment skills), and the VA Community Resource and Referral Center (a federal/city joint venture offering homeless citizens a wide variety of services). Cassap was able to observe veterans and other individuals experiencing homelessness as they successfully engaged with case workers at Homeless Court to find housing, and to have legal impediments to housing cleared by the court. At the CRRC, he saw how the community offers both veteran and non-veteran homeless a place to shower, eat, receive medical and legal services, and “shop” for clothes and other basic needs. At Liberty’s Kitchen, he enjoyed lunch prepared by homeless youth learning the skills needed to become self-sufficient.
We are so glad to be able to share what we have learned as part of the fight to end homelessness, and hope that the insights gained during this tour will help John Cassap to advance that battle in the UK as well.