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The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event

Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program (CHLAP)

What is CHLAP?

The Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program (CHLAP) is a joint project between NEOCH and the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. It is designed to provide legal assistance to indigent people who are homeless, in danger of becoming homeless or those who have been homeless during the recent past. Many people who come to the intake sessions are not homeless. They are, however, poor and unable to hire an attorney. CHLAP provides assistance to them as well.

The existing legal assistance programs do not meet the legal needs of indigent homeless persons. Access to the judicial system is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Such access cannot be made dependent on an individual’s ability to hire a lawyer.

The Program sponsors intake sessions at various Cleveland sites. Volunteer attorneys staff the intake sites. These attorneys provide legal advice and assistance on a variety of legal issues. Family law, housing, expungements and public benefits comprise the majority of cases. The Program does not represent individuals charged with crimes. Those clients are referred to the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s office where they will receive excellent representation.

The need for legal assistance to indigent persons is growing. The resources available to them are limited. CHLAP is working to meet their needs.

Program Benefits

CHLAP provides people with information. This makes a difference to someone trying to navigate the legal system. Giving people information empowers them to take control of a situation that they may find confusing, frustrating and frightening. Teaching people about their legal rights is essential. People realize they are able to resolve problems in an effective manner.

CHLAP established intake sessions at several sites. In 2014, these sites are: West Side Catholic Center, Bishop Cosgrove Center, the May Dugan Center, the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter, Volunteers of America, VOA Veterans Resource Center, Salvation Army Harbor Light, Lakewood Community Service Center, North Star Re-Entry Center, and the men’s shelter at 2100 Lakeside. Some of the sites are only for residents, please check the schedule.

It is often not possible to refer clients to attorneys for direct representation. As a result, CHLAP is developing programs to provide the necessary information and forms to clients so they can represent themselves. This is pro se representation.

In 2003, CHLAP initiated the Pro Se Divorce Project in the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court. Individuals who meet specific criteria can contact CHLAP and be assisted in filing for divorce. The client completes a Divorce Questionnaire and law students, clerking for CHLAP, prepare the pleadings.

Clients are also being provided with assistance to request administrative hearings for child support modifications and expungement of criminal convictions.

These programs provide clients with the tools they need to resolve their legal problems. It also reminds people that being poor is not a crime and they do have rights under our legal system.

How to Contact the Program

People seeking assistance can contact CHLAP by calling 216-432-0543. The Program’s mailing address is:

P. O. Box 93061
Cleveland, OH 44101-5061

You can also find the updated Intake Schedule here on the NEOCH website or the Cleveland Bar Association website.

When contacting the Program, or attending an intake session, the following information is necessary:

  1. Explain the type of legal problem you have;
  2. Bring all your paperwork to the meeting with the attorney;
  3. If calling CHLAP, leave your name, phone number, and address, and speak clearly and slowly.
  4. If you are not an existing client you must go to a legal clinic to talk to a lawyer. Here is the 2011 Intake Schedule

No attorney can guarantee a result to a client. CHLAP does not guarantee results. We will assist you in resolving your legal problem. We will provide you with information to help you understand your options. CHLAP provides you with an opportunity to discuss your situation with a lawyer, at no cost to you.
CHLAP intends to continue to expand its services. This will, of course, depend on the availability of funding and the number of volunteer attorneys.

If you are an Attorney, Paralegal or Law Student and wish to volunteer, please contact the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. Or, you can complete one of the Volunteer Forms found online. Print out the form and mail it to CHLAP at the above address.

What can volunteers do to help at CHLAP?

The Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program assists eligible clients by addressing a variety of legal issues. These issues include Social Security, family law, housing, employment and general legal advice.

Volunteer opportunities exist for lawyers, paralegals and law students. Lawyers can volunteer two hours a month at one of six intake sites. Volunteers conduct interviews, answer questions and assist in addressing the client’s legal needs. Attorneys who can provide direct pro bono legal assistance in the family law area are desperately needed.

Paralegals can also assist at the intake sessions. Law students and paralegals assist clients by conducting legal research and preparing documents and pleadings for client in pro se matters.

CHLAP plans to initiate a series of monthly seminars for clients and local social service providers. Topics will include: divorce, custody, visitation, employment, bankruptcy, housing and Social Security. If you are interested in volunteering for this program, the Bar Association has an easy way to sign up as a volunteer on their website here.  If you are not an attorney, but would like to help out, please contact NEOCH at 216.432.0543, or by email at neoch(at)neoch(dot)org.