Legal Advocacy At Work
Legal Advocacy At Work (LA2W) is a non-profit poverty and social justice law firm. We represent a diverse range of clients, ranging from senior citizens on fixed incomes facing foreclosure actions brought by predatory lenders, victims of domestic violence, and poor and homeless individuals trapped in the collections court system. LA2W also engages in constitutional & civil rights litigation on behalf of those whose rights are threatened.
LA2W is lead by Managing Attorney Jacqueline Dowd, a former law professor and assistant attorney general for the State of Florida. (Standing center in photo at left)
IDignity - Providing Identification for the poor
LA2W serves as legal counsel to IDignity. It is often impossible for a person to get a job or access to services without state-issued identification. Poor and homeless people often find themselves without ID for a number of reasons. They lose it moving from place to place, it gets stolen, or -- believe it or not -- it sometimes gets confiscated and trashed in an act of dehumanization by law enforcement or corrections officers.
Once you are without ID, you are caught in a circular trap. You need a photo ID to get a Social Security card, and you need a Social Security card to get a Florida ID. You need a birth certificate to get one, but you need ID to get a birth certificate. And of course, you need money to get a state ID or a birth certificate.
Without ID, it's almost impossible to get a job, rent a motel room or get into a shelter, or access other life-sustaining services.
At IDignity we work together with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Orange County Health Department and the Social Security Administration to get identification cards and drivers licenses issued or resissued to the poor, free of charge. CLICK HERE for the latest schedule and information.
Please consider helping by volunteering your time or making a donation.
Homelessness and Intolerance
Attorney Jacqueline Dowd of Legal Advocacy at Work, Inc (LA2W.org) represented members of Orlando Food Not Bombs and the First Vagabonds Church of God in a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the City of Orlando's Large Group Feeding Ordinance' (click to view the original complaint filed in Oct 2006) . Jacqueline also represented Eric Montanez of Orlando Food Not Bombs (at right in photo ) in his criminal trial, where an Orlando jury found Eric not guilty of feeding too many homeless people in Lake Eola Park. ...Read More...
The National Homeless Coalition and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty have released a report entitled: Feeding Intolerance: Prohibitions of Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness. This report features Orlando’s criminalization of feeding the homeless.
The NHC/NLCHP report features the ongoing issues around the criminalization of homelessness in Central Florida and the nation and quotes Jacqueline, “Instead of going after the homeless, they’re going after people who serve the homeless.”
Some service providers, who are largely dependant on local government funding, have taken the position that the ordinance is beneficial because it can be used to leverage homeless people into coming to their facilities. While these facilities do wonderful work for some poor and homeless individuals, it is morally dubious to use hunger, sleep deprivation, and fear of arrest as a way to force them into a particular service provider network.
LA2W concurs with NHC/NLCHP’s position that instead of criminalizing food sharing, local government and tax funded service providers should collaborate with food sharing groups, to address the problems of homelessness and hunger. If introducing people in need to existing programs is a goal, then these groups should reach out and embrace these ‘food sharers’ who have built trusting personal relationships with these often service-resistant individuals.
At the most fundamental level, we need to remember that a person without a stable place to sleep is still entitled to their basic human and civil rights. Not being housed does not make someone incompetent or require someone to become their conservator or master.
LA2W’s advocates and lawyers are at food-sharings in the parks and at St.Georges Orthodox Church in downtown Orlando, on the shore of Lake Eola, providing free legal advocacy for the poor and homeless. Over the past two years, thousands of people have been connected with housing, medical care and other services through initial contacts made at the food-sharings.