Testimony by
Linson Bailey, Executive Director, HELP USA’s Supportive Services for Veterans Families
The Chief Judge’s Hearings on Civil Legal Services
Presented Before
Hon. Jonathan Lippmann,
Chief Judge of the State of New York

Hon. Justice Randall T. Eng,
Presiding Justice of the Second Department

Hon. Lawrence K. Marks
Chief Administrative Judge of the State of New York

Claire Gutekunst
President – Elect of the New York State Bar Association

October 16, 2015,
NYS Judicial Institute
84 North Broadway
White Plains, New York

My name Is Linson Bailey and I am the Executive Director of Help USA’s Supportive Services for Veterans Families Program. Thank you for inviting me to testify today regarding the need to provide legal services to veterans. HELP USA believes that no person, especially not someone who has served their country, deserves to be homeless.

HELP USA was founded in 1986 with the goal of better serving homeless families in New York City. We built our first building in the East New York section of Brooklyn, and with its completion, changed the way people thought about homeless service. Our success and innovative thinking in New York has helped us grow into a national organization, but our headquarters, and the bulk of our programming, remains in New York State.

HELP USA operates thirty residences and programs across five cities in New York State. Since 1986, HELP has invested more than $175,000,000 in capital projects in the state, and built 3,200 units of housing for homeless and low-income New Yorkers.

HELP’s holistic approach of providing safe, quality housing, on-site professional case management, and employment and counseling services is a proven resource for homeless and at-risk veterans, male or female. For the past 25 years, HELP USA has developed and implemented new and innovative approaches to helping the homeless and other populations in need, playing a leadership role in homelessness prevention and family stabilization. HELP’s program model for veterans’ services reflects our ongoing commitment to build better lives. We use our model to encourage veterans to rebuild their lives and gain self-sufficiency for their families.

HELP operates a Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program that provides homelessness prevention services to individual veterans and veteran families throughout New York City and in Las Vegas. SSVF is a pioneering program funded by the Veterans Administration; the program’s goals are to stabilize and support veteran families, keep younger veterans from becoming homeless, and help veterans who have experienced homelessness exit shelter and return to the community.

The employment training, support services, and life skills programs that HELP provides to assist veterans and their families with the transition back from war includes financial literacy, employment services and job training, job placement and retention, family stabilization services, case management, educational and psychological counseling, health service coordination, and day care and mentoring programs for children. The programs assist returned or returning military personnel as they face the challenging task of reintegrating into civilian life.

One of the most important and sought after services for veterans is civil legal services. When veterans come into contact with HELP USA they frequently need legal services to help with life altering issues involving eviction, homelessness, family law, and consumer law matters.

Since 2013, our SSVF program has partnered with Legal Services NYC’s Veterans Justice Project to provide more comprehensive services to the veterans we assist. The Veterans Justice Project’s attorneys and paralegals have become an integral part of how we provide services to veterans. Their paralegals staff weekly clinics at three of our sites where they meet with our staff and veterans and screen for legal issues. After screening, the Veterans Justice Project attorneys provide full representation for veterans with a variety of legal needs. As the SSVF program focuses on housing issues, the bulk of the legal issues presented are housing related. The Veteran Justice Project attorneys represent our veterans in housing court and other forums in order to ensure that our veterans do not face eviction. Beyond eviction prevention, many of our veterans face other legal issues which are a barrier to self-sufficiency and family stabilization. These issues include access to benefits from the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, public assistance and food stamps. Veterans are also assisted with consumer debt, defaulted student loans, family law issues and a variety of other legal needs.

In addition to direct counsel and representation of veteran clients, the Veterans Justice Project provides technical assistance to and training for our front line staff.

Our partnership with the Veterans Justice Project recognizes the import role that attorneys and especially free legal services must play in addressing the problem of veteran homelessness and poverty. It is encouraging to be here to tell you about our program and to encourage the legal community to follow the example of our partners at Legal Services NYC in providing legal assistance to New York’s veteran community.