Chapter 5. Barriers to accessing legal assistance
Because you’ve already fallen outside the boundaries of most support services there are two things here. One is the lack of knowledge of information. If you don’t have a fixed home address and your life is transient, you don’t know about support services. You do not know about legal services. You do not know about free medical services. You don’t know anything about the way the world works. Because your life suddenly starts to become a circle of wake up, put your face on, dread the night, go out, do what you’ve got to do, come home, pound yourself with drugs or alcohol or some sort of substance, and then crash out and then get up and do it again. There is no forethought, no planning, no availability to move outside that boundary when you’re there.1
As illustrated in Chapter 4, homeless people in NSW tend to face multiple legal issues as they move through homelessness. Prominent among these are eviction, housing debt and blacklisting, family law, domestic violence issues and other crime, debt and income related issues. For many homeless people, legal problems are intertwined with social issues.
Homeless people face a variety of barriers in accessing legal assistance. Some barriers relate to their circumstances, such as limited resources to spend pursuing a legal issue and competing immediate priorities. More systemic barriers include the complexity and formality of the law and the limited resources available to support the range and extent of legal need among disadvantaged people in NSW.
This chapter discusses the barriers homeless people face in identifying and seeking support for their legal issues.