On 18th April 2019, Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC) in partnership with A&L Goodbody, Focus Ireland and the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) launched a report entitled “Housing Rights and Homelessness: lessons from a pro bono partnership”
The report details an innovative housing law clinic operated from the Focus Ireland service in Temple Bar. The housing law clinic is a partnership between Focus Ireland, A&L Goodbody, and Mercy Law Resource Centre which was supported and facilitated by the Public Interest Law Alliance. It consists of legal advice given at weekly clinics and follow up legal representation. The report documents not only the current pro-bono partnership, but the continued partnership between MLRC and Focus Ireland which has been in existence since 2010.
At the launch, Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy for Focus Ireland noted how the housing crisis has deepened considerably and progressively in recent years, resulting in devastating consequences for adults and children across Ireland. He recognised the urgent need for this legal advice clinic and the valuable resource and support it provides to Focus Ireland keyworkers.
Rebecca Keatinge, Managing Solicitor of MLRC, noted at the launch: “Since 2010, MLRC solicitors have advised 1,054 individuals and supported them in overcoming serious difficulties in relation to their housing. We are delighted to expand this model of legal advice and to enhance our reach through this pro bono partnership. We greatly value the partnership with A&L Goodbody, Focus Ireland and PILA and look forward to building on the positive impacts of this important project.”
A&L Goodbody Managing Partner, Julian Yarr, welcomed the report and the partnership and said: “Access to justice lies at the heart of our pro bono practice. All our lawyers are encouraged to use their legal skills to tackle the most complex and challenging social issues in our community. The work at the housing clinic is challenging but this collaboration has enabled us to apply our skills and knowledge to support individuals and families out of homelessness. The partnership we have with Focus Ireland and Mercy Law allows us to do just this and we’re incredibly proud of the difference we can make together.”
At the launch, MLRC expressed sincere gratitude for the dedication of the solicitors within A&L to the pro-bono programme. As noted within the case studies in the report, many of the cases presenting at the clinics were legally complex and require persistent advocacy to resolve and the solicitors showed considerable tenacity and compassion in the manner they dealt with cases. The wider social benefit of engagement with the project was also recognised at the launch.
The partnership was facilitated by PILA and made possible due to the unique collaboration between the organisations. The clinic fills a gap in legal provision, as State legal aid is not widely available on housing issues. The clinic model ensures that legal advice is accessible and has provided an appropriate and valuable way to connect with individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. While it is hoped that such pro-bono supports will not always be needed, the lack of legal aid support and the homeless figures now reported at over 10,300 with 3,821 of these children shows there is a clear need for this service. MLRC looks forward to continuing this valuable and collaborative partnership.