Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP), founded in 1990, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015. In honor of this milestone, a video was made to tell their story, from their inception to the work they are doing today.
The Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) exists to meet the legal and advocacy needs of homeless individuals and families in Philadelphia. With a legal staff of 9 and a corps of 350 volunteer lawyers, paralegals, and law students, HAP engages in direct outreach to homeless individuals in need of legal services.
In the fall of 1990, a group of concerned members of the Philadelphia Bar Association and the homeless services community created HAP to address the unmet legal needs of Philadelphia’s homeless population. This group was led by the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Problems of the Homeless Committee, Community Legal Services (CLS) and homeless advocates, including Sister Mary Scullion of Project HOME.
HAP was founded in the belief that homeless people have unique and complex legal problems that often are not adequately addressed by traditional providers of legal services to indigent and low-income individuals. Homeless individuals lead transient, unstable lives, and are often debilitated by mental illness, substance abuse, and inadequate education. They frequently lack an understanding of their legal rights and the ability to make effective use of the network of advocacy and service organizations that are available to assist them. Living in crisis, often without income or resources, homeless persons are less likely, and less able, than other indigent clients to make use of Center City-based legal services programs.
To ensure that homeless people had access to legal services, HAP’s founders created an organization designed to deliver legal services directly to them in the places where they live and eat. Since its inception, HAP has conducted legal clinics in shelters and soup kitchens throughout Philadelphia. By recruiting and training volunteer attorneys, legal assistants and law students to staff these clinics, HAP is able to provide free legal counseling and representation to a population not adequately served by other legal services programs. HAP is the only legal services organization in Philadelphia that conducts such direct outreach to the homeless population.
HAP collaborates with shelter providers, homeless advocates, community service providers and the legal community to provide homeless clients with legal representation and to connect them with other social services. HAP currently holds legal clinics at twenty-five homeless shelters, transitional housing sites, overnight cafes and soup kitchens. Since HAP’s first legal clinic in December 1990, HAP’s 350 volunteers have helped more than 49,000 homeless people. To date, HAP’s volunteers have provided more than $79 million worth of free legal services to homeless clients.