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  • Ending Veteran Homelessness

  • 10-23-2018

  • West Tennessee Legal Services Announces Sub-Grantee Milestone towards Ending Veteran Homelessness

    On Tuesday, October 23, 2018, the Jackson/West Tennessee Continuum of Care (CoC) announced that it is the first CoC in the State of Tennessee to meet the federal benchmarks for effectively ending homelessness among Veterans for its service area. A CoC is defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as “a community plan to organize and deliver housing and services to meet the specific needs of people who are homeless as they move to stable housing and maximize self-sufficiency.  It includes action steps to end homelessness.” 

    As the Direct Grantee of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program grant, West Tennessee Legal Services, Inc. has worked in close partnership for over five years with its Sub-Grantee, Tennessee Homeless Solutions as well as the local Continuum of Care (CoC) to establish a community-wide plan to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans in this area.  The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program is funded from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to assist very low-income Veteran families residing in or transitioning into permanent housing and to promote permanent housing. 

    An end to Veteran homelessness means that every community will have a comprehensive response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible, or if it can’t be prevented, it is a rare, brief, and one-time experience.  Specifically, every community will have the capacity to:

    • Quickly identify Veterans & engage those Veterans that are at risk of homelessness or currently experiencing homelessness.
    • Intervene to prevent Veterans from losing housing & divert Veterans from entering the homelessness services system
    • Provide Veterans with immediate access to shelter & crisis services without barriers to entry if homelessness does occur
    • Quickly connect Veterans that are experiencing homelessness to housing assistance & services that are tailored to meet the unique needs to help achieve and maintain stable housing.

    Homelessness is always a tragedy but is especially heart-breaking when a Veteran’s service to our country contributed to the situation. According to a survey released by the VA in May 2018, four of the top 10 unmet needs for homeless veterans result from a lack of legal assistance.  They are:

    • Legal assistance for child support issues (No. 5 for males, No. 5 for females)
    • Legal assistance to help restore a driver’s license (No. 8 for males, No. 8 for females)
    • Legal assistance for outstanding warrants and fines (No. 9 for males, No. 10 for females)
    • Legal assistance to prevent eviction and foreclosure (No. 10 for males

    These unresolved legal issues often contribute to the cycle of poverty that keeps these veterans in a homeless situation. Wrongful eviction or foreclosure may force residents from their homes, robbing them of a stable shelter. Outstanding warrants and fines can pile up beyond a person’s ability to pay, possibly leading to jail time. The ability to bring in money through a job can be hampered by the lack of a fixed address, and without a driver’s license, commuting to a job by other means can be a struggle. Navigating the disability benefits process and medical bills for disabled veterans can be overwhelming.

    The spiraling effect of these issues can lead to despair and homelessness.  West Tennessee Legal Services works in conjunction with the CoC and other agencies to help veterans with these types of problems affecting their basic needs for which there may be legal solutions.

  • Suzie Edwards Press Release

  • Posted December 21, 2017

  • Suzie Edwards, intake paralegal for West Tennessee Legal Services’ (WTLS’) Huntingdon Office was honored with the first annual “Steve X” award for her outstanding work promoting access to justice in West Tennessee. 

    For the last forty (40) years, WTLS has provided civil legal help to low-income, vulnerable individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance in 17 West Tennessee Counties, including Carroll County.   More information about WTLS’ services, including downloadable factsheets and brochures regarding legal issues affecting senior citizens and low-income individuals, can be found at www.wtls.org.

    Steve Xanthopoulos, former Executive Director of WTLS from 1988-2014, first joined WTLS in 1980 as the Managing Attorney in the Huntingdon office.  Xanthopoulos was a creative innovator in the delivery of civil legal assistance to vulnerable populations and was recognized nationally, as well as statewide, for his collaborative efforts to ensure justice for all.  Excellence was the standard by which he led.  In honor of his dedication and leadership, current Executive Director, Catherine B. Clayton, established the "Steve X" award to be given annually to a WTLS staff member whose work ethic and dedication to WTLS clients exemplifies the standard Xanthopoulos established.  According to Clayton, “The Constitution opens with its stated goal:  ‘We the People, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice  . . .’ Suzie Edwards helps makes the Constitutional promise of ‘justice for all’, as also stated in the Pledge of Allegiance,  possible for  vulnerable West Tennesseans every day. There is no one more well-deserving of Steve Xanthopoulos’ legacy to receive the first Steve X award than Suzie.” 

  • Bill Reduces Costs of Expungements

  • Posted May 30, 2017

  • According to the Nashville AP, Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a law that will make it easier for people convicted of mostly low-level offenses to get their criminal records wiped clean.  The law reduces the costs of expunging criminal record convictions from $450 to $270, making it more affordable.  The bipartisan measure was championed by two Shelby County lawmakers in an effort to help non-violent offenders who have turned their lives around.  The measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat from Memphis, and Sen. Mark Norris, a Republican from Collierville, takes effect immediately.