A new partnership between the Charleston School of Law and the homeless shelter One80 Place looks to improve access to justice and provide legal assistance to one of Charleston’s most vulnerable populations.
As part of the Homeless Justice Project Clinic, the Charleston shelter welcomes the services of four third-year law students eager to advise One80 Place clients—all of whom are low-income or homeless—regarding civil legal issues affecting their housing, including public benefits, landlord/tenant, powers of attorney, and expunctions.
Perpetually, the demand for legal services is greater than the supply—a discrepancy that Jeff Yungman, One80 Place’s director of legal services, said has only increased during the pandemic.
“Our shelter has had to reduce the number of guests for social distancing,” Yungman said. “As a result, we do not have the ready access to clients we have had in the past.”
Because One80 Place can accommodate fewer clients, it is offering its legal services to clients of other area shelters and homeless individuals contacted by the Charleston Police Department.
The extra hands on deck couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I have four law students who all have expressed an interest in public interest law to do the work that I would be doing,” Yungman said. “So, clients will hopefully receive assistance quicker than when I am providing it all myself.”
CSL Dean Larry Cunningham said that the students are ideally positioned to advocate for the rights of those who need it most.
“One80 Place’s clients will get the benefit of being assisted by energetic, smart law students who have a low caseload,” Cunningham said.
Simultaneously, Cunningham said, the aspiring attorneys will profit from the “real-world, hands-on” experience they’ll receive under a man who has dedicated his life to public interest. Over more than two decades, Yungman has supervised 90 Charleston students performing their externships or required pro bono hours.
“These types of experiences help students connect the dots between doctrine and law practice,” Cunningham said. “Learning by doing is an important aspect of every profession and law is no exception.”
Cunningham said there are plans to expand the clinic and include more students in the future.
To help ensure the best representation for his clients, Yungman will present weekly seminars on relevant legal topics and host “class rounds” that allow students to discuss their cases and receive feedback and guidance.
If the name of the recently established clinic sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a second incarnation of sorts. In 2004, Yungman was a case manager for One80 Place (then known as Crisis Ministries) when, at 53, he enrolled at CSL to better serve the shelter’s clients. During his second year, students and pro bono attorneys, primarily from Nelson Mullins, formed the short-lived Homeless Justice Project, a program that ended with Yungman’s time as a law student.
“Since it is coming back to One80 Place, we thought it would be appropriate to bring back the name,” Yungman said.