NJP News | Volume 1 | Issue 3

Homelessness is Not A Crime
This month, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in an Idaho case arguing that making it a crime for homeless persons to sleep in public places, when there is insufficient shelter space in a city, unconstitutionally punishes them for being homeless.  Bell v. City of Boise et al.
Efforts to address homelessness through the criminal justice system also persist in Washington State. In May 2015 the Seattle University School of Law's Homeless Rights Advocacy Project published several reports analyzing laws criminalizing homelessness statewide. These laws were found to be expensive, ineffective, and disproportionately impacting people of color, women, LGBTQ youth, individuals with mental illness, and veterans.  In the words of Professor Sara Rankin "visible poverty makes people uncomfortable," but using the criminal justice system, does not address "the root problems of homelessness and poverty."

NJP Representation Protects Homeless Services in Kelso
The doors remain open at Love Overwhelming after NJP challenges the City of Kelso's effort to close the only low-barrier homeless shelter in the community. 
NJP's Longview Office defense of Love Overwhelming against efforts by the City of Kelso to close the facility has increased awareness of the needs of homeless persons in Cowlitz County. Love Overwhelming is tackling the difficult task of bringing homeless individuals off the streets and connecting them to social and medical services to secure stable housing.
Neighbor complaints of loitering and allegations of drug activity resulted in increased tensions and a police sting operation which led to the nuisance lawsuit filed by the City. NJP Longview Senior Attorney Lisa Waldvogel and Staff Attorney Jeffrey Keddie defeated the City's request for an injunction leading to the settlement under which the shelter continues operations and establishes a cooperative working relationship with the county and law enforcement and includes additional training for police.

Disabled Veteran's Home Protected - Rights Vindicated

NJP's Spokane Office saves disabled veteran's home and recovers compensation against siding company for predatory practices. 
An unscrupulous door-to-door siding salesman, using high pressure sales tactics, induced a veteran with mental disabilities and his disabled wife to enter into four separate contracts to side their home. The siding company financed the contracts by opening two credit cards in the client's name and making unauthorized charges of nearly $20,000. After additional credit card applications were denied due to the high interest rate and balances on the outstanding credit cards the client was encouraged to open a home equity line of credit to make additional payments to the siding company.
The veteran and his wife were referred to NJP by the bank manager who was alarmed by the circumstances surrounding his request for a home equity loan. Thanks to NJP attorneys Scott Kinkley and Jose Trejo, the siding company agreed to pay the client the outstanding balance of both credit cards and more than $15,000 in damages. The siding was also completed. Sadly, the veteran was widowed during the course of the litigation. 

Washington Foreclosure Prevention Resource Guide

Photo by Jeff Turner / CC BY

Spread the Word! Updated Foreclosure Prevention Guide  now posted on  WashingtonLawHelp.org - please share the guide with your family, friends and neighbors.
The updated guide provides a comprehensive overview of current law; information about the foreclosure process; options for homeowners and tenants facing foreclosure and how to obtain a reputable housing counselor; tips on how to avoid foreclosure rescue scams; and resources available for assistance. NJP's Foreclosure Prevention and Foreclosure Consequences Advocacy Units worked with Seattle University School of Law, the Northwest Consumer Law Center, Columbia Legal Services and housing counseling and non-profit financial services to update and improve this important resource.
Plain Language Family Law Forms Are Coming!
In a multi-year collaboration with the Access to Justice Board's Pro Se Project Forms Review Work Group, NJP Vancouver Office attorney Laurie Garber staffed the effort to convert the mandatory family law pattern forms to "plain English," making it much easier for unrepresented persons   to complete the needed forms and navigate the court process. The 'plain language' forms will remove a huge barrier for anyone needing access to the family court. The plain language project was a tremendous management challenge as the review and 'translation' process involved some two hundred original forms, assessment and evaluation of the substantive content of each form, and the challenging task of ensuring stakeholder input prior to publication of the forms.  
The complete plain language family law pattern forms have now been  posted for official comment (8/1/15 - 9/15/15) prior to final adoption. 

To learn more about our work contact Bryan Baker, Director of Development, like us on Facebook, and visit our website where you can access our annual reports and explore more of NJP. Also, please share NJP News with your friends and colleagues so they can join NJP in helping make equal justice a reality in Washington.

CÚsar E. Torres
Executive Director

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