Chapter 7. Assistance by non-legal agencies
Well, it’s somewhere you can come to get off the street if you need to … You can get the right advice. Instead of asking someone on the street … [The caseworker] here can give you the right people to go and see to start with, help you make phone calls if you need to, and things like that.1
The current and other studies indicate that homeless people are more likely to seek legal assistance from people or services that they are familiar with and already see in their day-to-day life.2
There are an array of agencies and organisations that specifically assist homeless people, providing food, shelter, medical attention and drug and alcohol treatment. Some of these organisations also provide advocacy, legal information, advice and referral services. There are also many general services accessed by people while homeless (e.g. health services, schools, community centres).
In the current study, nearly half of the homeless participants said that they would go to or had gone to a legal service (usually Legal Aid) if and when they had a legal problem.3 However, as will be argued in this chapter, many homeless people also turn, at least initially, to non-legal services or workers for advice if facing a legal issue.
This chapter looks at the role that non-legal services play in assisting homeless people with their legal problems or in linking them with legal support. It will examine:
- non-legal support and services that are accessed by homeless people in NSW, as possible sites for legal assistance or referral
- what non-legal services do to assist homeless people with legal problems, and the challenges they face in providing this assistance
- how to support non-legal services in addressing their clients’ legal needs
- options for coordinating legal and non-legal support to address the needs of homeless people.