Tag Archive for: Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Keeping kids out of foster care saves families — and state money (Boston Globe)

Below is an excerpt from an editorial published by the Boston Globe on April 22 explaining the need and benefit of legal intervention for families dealing with DCF. Community Legal Aid’s Madeline Weaver Blanchette and Massachusetts Law Reform Insitute’s Susan Elsen are quoted.


There are lots of good ways to spend money to help families and children. Rarer are policies that help families while saving money.

Yet that is the likely outcome when programs intervene early to stabilize families involved with the Department of Children and Families and prevent children’s removal. When families can safely remain together, it saves children and parents anguish while avoiding costly foster care placements and court cases.

For the past couple of years, funding from the courts and the state has supported pilot programs where lawyers, social workers, parent advocates, and mediators intervene with families when a DCF case is opened. While more study of these programs’ outcomes is needed, early evidence is promising, and similar models are being expanded nationwide. Massachusetts should ensure there is stable funding for these programs and that they are given the resources needed to expand. The investment will pay off in dollars and, more importantly, in children’s lives.

These programs generally do not deal with allegations of child abuse. But more than 85 percent of the approximately 23,600 children DCF found to have experienced mistreatment in fiscal 2022, the latest data available, involved neglect, a category often influenced by poverty. It is those cases where efforts to stabilize a family can sometimes alleviate DCF’s concerns.

Read more at the Boston Globe.

Loss of federally-subsidized internet program will affect hundreds of thousands of Mass. families

Listen to WBUR’s radio segment discussing the impact of the loss of a federally-subsidized internet program in Massachusetts. Massachusetts Law Reform Institute’s Virigina Benzan joins Mary Magner to discuss. Learn more below.


The federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) program, which offered qualified participants a $30 monthly benefit to help with internet bills, is winding down. What does that mean for Massachusetts families?

Mary Magner, an ACP participant in Brighton, and Virginia Benzan, of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, join Radio Boston to discuss.

Listen to the segment here.

Advocates say it’s time to expand the definition of domestic violence (GBH)

 

Below is an excerpt from an article published on March 22 by GBH. The article explores the meaning of domestic violence and the movement in Massachusetts to expand it. Mass Law Reform Institute’s Director of Advocacy, Jamie Sabino, is quoted.


Massachusetts could join a small group of states expanding the definition of domestic violence to include acts of coercive control.

The Senate bill passed on Thursday not only amends the state’s criminal harassment law and establishes clear penalties for sharing sexually explicit images or videos without the subject’s consent, it would also expand the definition of domestic violence to include coercive control, which advocates say is at the heart of domestic abuse.

“The act of sharing intimate images without someone’s consent is a way of degrading, humiliating, holding some kind of power over another individual. So it is a form of coercive control,” said Hema Sarang-Sieminski, the deputy director of Jane Doe Inc., a local domestic violence survivor advocacy coalition.

Coercive control can also appear as isolating a person from friends and family, controlling their finances, or tracking their movement and communications. Advocates say these kinds of controlling behaviors often lead to later violence.

Read more at GBH.

There can be no shelter caps without a humane alternative (Boston Globe)

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Executive Director Georgia Katsoulomitis penned a letter to the editor in the Boston Globe about the current strain on housing shelters in Massachusetts.


We have been here before and know what happens when families are turned away from emergency shelters: Parents and children find shelter under bridges or behind dumpsters or on the floors of emergency departments (“The cost of emergency shelter has become unsustainable. Some caps may be warranted,” Editorial, March 11).

In 2012, the Patrick administration tightened regulations for access to emergency shelters. It had well-intended reasons, but the effort dramatically increased the number of people, including children, living in cars, on the streets, or in hospital ERs. In the end, the rules were repealed.

Now the state is about to tell families again that there may be no room for them in emergency shelters. Expect more homelessness. Because where else do you go when the last refuge is taken away? The street.

If the Commonwealth is serious about limiting the number of families eligible or the time unhoused people can stay in emergency shelters, then it must immediately invest in bolstering our safety net, doing more to help families get work, and helping families find affordable homes. And this means investing in, creating, and preserving affordable housing.

The alternative is forcing people to live in intolerable circumstances and conditions because they have no other options. No one wants that. It is inhumane, and it does not reflect our values.

Your editorial recognizes the need for increasing social services, but it still falls short in accepting the unacceptable. There can be no shelter caps if the only answer — and inevitable result — is sending families onto the street. You can’t just shut the door on our poorest families without first making sure they have somewhere else to go.

Georgia Katsoulomitis

Executive director

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Boston

‘Not a fair fight.’ Advocates, officials push to provide free legal aid to low-income tenants fighting eviction. (Boston Globe)

Below is an article published on March 1 by The Boston Globe highlighting the experiences of those facing housing legal issues without proper representation and the need for the right to counsel in Boston. Greater Boston Legal Services attorney Laura Massie and Mass Law Reform Institute attorney Annette Duke are quoted.


When 45-year-old Mary Barrera stood before a judge in the Eastern Division of the Massachusetts Housing Court last year, she was terrified. And she was alone.

Originally from Colombia and living in the United States without legal status, Barrera was facing eviction from her three-bedroom apartment in East Boston, where she and two of her adult children have lived for nearly eight years. They normally split the $2,500 monthly rent, but after briefly losing their jobs during the pandemic, fell behind for one month.

Barrera said they were able to resume paying the following month, but when they couldn’t pay what they owed in full, their landlord moved to evict them.

When the case went to trial, Barrera’s landlord had a lawyer with her. Barrera — with limited English, little understanding of the complex legal system, and homelessness a very real threat — was on her own.

“It’s an experience that I don’t wish on anyone,” Barrera told the Globe with the help of a translator. “It causes all kinds of things — worry, desperation, stress.”

Housing advocates say Barrera’s story is all too common and demonstrates a critical inequity in the current housing court system — which is even more dire given the state’s overburdened emergency shelter system.

Read more at the Boston Globe.

Housing Staff Attorney – MLRI

Deadline for Submission:
Application materials will be reviewed and interviews will be scheduled on a rolling basis; this is a fast-track hire and qualified candidates are strongly encouraged to submit their application materials as soon as possible.

The Position:
MLRI seeks an experienced, dynamic, and strategic attorney with a background in housing law and policy to join its Housing Practice Group and advocate on behalf of low-income and marginalized people statewide.

Primary Responsibilities:
Coordinate and co-lead statewide advocacy on the Emergency Assistance family shelter system and other related programs, including legislative and administrative advocacy and trainings. Coordinate and oversee development and updating of community legal education on housing and homelessness topics. These priorities may change based on the experience and qualifications of the applicant.

Ongoing Responsibilities:
Together with the Housing Practice Group (HPG), coordinate and facilitate statewide housing coalitions; provide technical support for legal services advocates and community groups on housing and homelessness issues; provide analysis and public comment on housing-related state legislation, budget, and policy; lead ongoing efforts with housing legal services advocates on court reform; and work with HPG to take on specific advocacy and other projects as they arise.

About MLRI:
Founded in 1968, MLRI is a nationally recognized nonprofit poverty law and policy center that provides statewide advocacy and leadership in advancing laws, policies, and practices that secure economic, racial, and social justice for low-income people and communities. We pursue systems change through impact litigation, legislative and administrative advocacy, coalition building, community lawyering, and other strategies that address systemic harm to low-income people. MLRI’s approach is based on a racial justice and anti-racist framework and uses community-driven and collective impact strategies to advance high impact change. MLRI also serves as the statewide multi-issue poverty law support center for the civil legal aid delivery system; our advocates provide substantive expertise and technical assistance and support to frontline legal aid field programs and advocates and to many serving low-income people.

MLRI’s housing advocates have played a significant role in advancing systemic solutions and policy reforms that achieve housing justice, prevent displacement, empower communities, prevent eviction and homelessness, and preserve housing affordable to lowest income residents. We work in multiple forms through multiple strategies in areas including homeless prevention, public and subsidized housing, tenants’ rights, fair housing, and housing preservation, gentrification and displacement.

Desired Experience & Qualifications:

  • J.D. and licensed (or eligible to become licensed) to practice law in Massachusetts.
  • Minimum 5 years legal experience preferred.
  • Experience or background in housing law and policy including shelter and emergency assistance issues and landlord-tenant issues.
  • Demonstrated litigation and/or policy advocacy experience.
  • Project management experience is highly desirable.
  • Demonstrated ability to work with clients, client groups, community-based organizations and coalitions.
  • Excellent research and writing skills.
  • Ability to work independently and collaboratively.
  • Excellent oral communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Strong organizational skills, strategic thinker, creative, and collaborative.
  • Commitment to MLRI’s mission to serve low-income and vulnerable populations and to advance an anti-racist, community-driven advocacy agenda.

Salary and Benefits:

  • MLRI offers competitive salaries, excellent benefits, and a supportive working environment that emphasizes work-life balance.
  • MLRI provides a very generous benefits including health, dental, vision, life and disability insurance, 403(b) plan employer contribution of 5% after 6 months of employment, as well as vacation, holiday, and family leave.
  • MLRI’s Staff Attorney salaries are based on salary scale range and are commensurate with skills and years of relevant post-JD attorney experience. For example, the approximate salary range for a staff attorney with 0-9 years of experience is: $70,000-105,000 depending on applicant level of experience. Internal equity considerations and average salary of the peer range will be reviewed and taken into consideration.
  • MLRI is currently operating on a hybrid schedule.

How to Apply:
Please email the following required application materials: 1) a cover letter outlining interest, experience and qualifications for the position, 2) a resume, and 3) 1-2 legal writing samples to humanresources@mlri.org. Please note that all required application materials must be submitted in order to be considered for the position. No phone calls please.

MLRI’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
MLRI is an equal opportunity employer that values a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. We believe that having a staff, board, and volunteers from diverse personal and professional backgrounds and lived experience enhances our ability to meet our mission and creates an environment where all members of our community can thrive. We strongly encourage applications from people of color, immigrants, women, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, people with lived experience of poverty and/or racism, and people from underrepresented and historically marginalized groups.

CLAVC Associate – MLRI

Deadline for Submission:
This is an immediate / fast track hire. Application materials will be reviewed, and interviews will be scheduled on a rolling basis; interested and qualified candidates are strongly encouraged to submit their application materials as soon as possible.

The Opportunity:
The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) seeks a Community Partnerships and Outreach Associate for the Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime Initiative (CLAVC). The position will focus on building and maintaining strategic partnerships and collaborations with community organizations and victim services providers to identify and address the most pressing civil legal needs of victims of crime and survivors of domestic violence, and to increase the impact of the CLAVC Initiative. The Associate will report directly to MLRI’s CLAVC Initiative Manager.

Position is 60 to 80% time depending on salary range.

About MLRI:
Founded in 1968, MLRI is a nationally recognized nonprofit poverty law and policy center that provides statewide advocacy and leadership in advancing laws, policies, and practices that secure economic, racial, and social justice for low-income people and communities. We pursue systems change through litigation, legislative and administrative advocacy, coalition building, community lawyering, and other strategies that address systemic harm to low-income people. MLRI is also the statewide multi-issue poverty law support center for the Massachusetts civil legal aid delivery system; our advocates provide substantive expertise and technical assistance to frontline legal aid field program advocates and to many other advocates and providers who serve low-income people and communities in Massachusetts. Visit www.mlri.org.

About CLAVC:
The CLAVC Initiative helps victims of crime throughout Massachusetts with their related civil legal problems — including family law, housing, immigration, disability rights, child welfare, education, consumer, identity theft, employment rights and public benefits.

Over 30 CLAVC attorneys and advocates in nine legal aid programs in Massachusetts offer a wide variety of civil legal services to victims of crime throughout the state. MLRI oversees the programmatic aspects of the initiative, including training, communications, outreach and project coordination. Visit www.massclavc.org for more information. CLAVC is funded by the Massachusetts Office for Victim of Crime (MOVA).

Job Responsibilities:

  • In collaboration with MLRI’s CLAVC Initiative Manager and CLAVC advocates across the state, develop and maintain partnerships and collaborations with community organizations and victim services providers so that victims of crime in Massachusetts can get help with their civil legal needs.
  • Provide trainings and facilitate community legal education and other presentations to community stakeholders, partners and other victim services providers throughout Massachusetts.
  • Engage in outreach efforts to victims of crime with civil legal needs to connect them with CLAVC and with legal information.
  • Develop, implement and provide technical support with outreach and communications activities including the public facing CLAVC website (www.MassCLAVC.org), the password protected CLAVC space on the statewide legal services advocate website (www MassLegalServices.org), and creation and distribution of materials including flyers, blog posts, fact sheets, graphics, community outreach and education materials, videos and social media content.
  • Support and coordinate planning and logistics for live and virtual trainings and other events for CLAVC advocates and develop creative ways for to build and maintain community among CLAVC advocates.
  • Give presentations about CLAVC to diverse audiences.
  • Oversee the rollout and marketing to community providers of LIST, a new online referral tool for community advocates to use when making referrals to CLAVC.
  • Maintain documents, data, and other information required by funders. Prepare detailed quarterly reports based on this information.
  • Work with, train, and supervise interns and AmeriCorps advocates.
  • Participate in meetings and coalitions representing the interests of victims of crime, identifying and effectuating projects to increase collaboration.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Desired Experience & Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree required.
  • Five to eight years of relevant experience.
  • Demonstrated experience working with victims of crime and survivors of domestic violence, victim services providers, legal aid, community groups, low income and/or vulnerable communities is strongly preferred.
  • Excellent community outreach and relationship development skills.
  • Very strong organizational skills, attention to detail and adeptness at prioritizing tasks.
  • Tech savvy with high level knowledge of G-Suite including Google Analytics Zoom, and MS Office suite especially Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point.
  • Excellent and versatile communication skills, including public speaking and writing.
  • Ability to work both independently and in a team environment.
  • Experience with social media platforms preferred.
  • Once in-person events have fully resumed, periodic travel to locations throughout Massachusetts to participate in in-person meetings, outreach events, trainings and presentations will be required.

MLRI offers a competitive compensation package. Salary levels for advocates are determined by a salary scale based on years of relevant work experience; for example, the salary for an individual 5 years of experience is $61,854 (non-attorney advocate) to $70,000 (lawyer); 10 years is $65,014 (non-attorney advocate) to $77,750 (attorney). MLRI offers generous benefits including health, dental, vision, life and disability insurance, 403(b) plan with employer contribution, as well as vacation, paid holidays, and family leave. This position can be hybrid with two days a week in office and other days remote.

How to Apply:
Please email a cover letter outlining experience and qualifications, a resume, and a short writing sample to humanresources@mlri.org. Resumes without a cover letter will not be considered. No phone calls please.

MLRI’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
MLRI is an equal opportunity employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. We believe that having a staff, board, and volunteers with diverse personal and professional backgrounds and lived experience enhances our ability to meet our mission and creates an environment where all members of our community can thrive. We strongly encourage applications from people of color, immigrants, women, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, people with lived experience of poverty and/or racism, and people from underrepresented and historically marginalized groups.

Health Law Senior Staff Attorney – MLRI

The Opportunity: The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) seeks an experienced attorney to join MLRI’s Health Law Practice Group. The Senior Staff Attorney will play a lead role in crafting and carrying out MLRI’s health advocacy agenda- through litigation, administrative and legislative advocacy, and coalition-building with legal aid, advocacy organizations and community-based groups.

About MLRI: MLRI is a nationally recognized nonprofit poverty law and policy center that provides statewide advocacy and leadership in advancing laws, policies, and practices that secure economic, racial, and social justice for low-income people and communities. We pursue systems change through litigation, legislative and administrative advocacy, coalition building, community lawyering, and other strategies that address systemic harm to low-income people. MLRI is also the statewide multi-issue poverty law support center for the Massachusetts civil legal aid delivery system; our advocates provide substantive expertise and technical assistance to frontline legal aid field program advocates and to many other advocates and providers who serve low-income people and communities in Massachusetts.

Desired Qualifications & Experience:

  • A law degree and admission to any state bar;
  • Minimum 7 years experience in relevant field, including minimum of 5 years post-law school legal experience;
  • Expertise in one or more areas of health law including Medicaid/MassHealth, Exchange/Health Connector, the Affordable Care Act, health care for the uninsured, public health, improving delivery of care, social determinants of health, and racial disparities in health;
  • Litigation experience;
  • Policy advocacy experience with state and/or federal administrative agencies or legislative bodies;
  • Demonstrated ability to collaborate with racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse community groups and coalitions;
  • Demonstrated ability to build, lead, and coordinate diverse and broad-based coalitions or working groups advocating for policy change;
  • Excellent writing and legal research skills;
  • Bi-lingual highly desirable but not required (especially Spanish-speaking);
  • Commitment to MLRI’s mission to serve low-income, historically and presently marginalized, and vulnerable populations by advancing a race equity agenda through a community driven advocacy lens.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Collaborate with the other MLRI advocates and coalition partners to identify and develop strategies to ensure access to affordable, quality health care for all.
  • Advocate for policy changes to improve health outcomes, improve access to affordable, quality health care, and to address racial disparities in health through:
    • High impact litigation,
    • Administrative and legislative advocacy,
    • Collaborative work with coalitions, working groups, and community-based organizations.
  • Provide legal and technical support, expertise, and training to policymakers, legal services program staff, and community organizations on health law and policy issues.
  • Assist MLRI’s health unit with securing and managing grant funding.

Salary and Benefits:

  • MLRI offers competitive salaries, excellent benefits, and a supportive working environment. MLRI provides a very generous benefits including health, dental, vision, life and disability insurance, 403(b) plan employer contribution of 3% after 6 months of employment, as well as vacation, holiday, and family leave
  • MLRI’s Staff Attorney salaries are based on scale and are commensurate with skills and years of relevant post-JD attorney experience. For example, for this position the salary range is $78,000-105,000 depending on applicant level of experience. Internal equity considerations and average salary of the peer range will be reviewed and taken into consideration.
  • MLRI is currently operating on a hybrid schedule

How to Apply:
Please email a cover letter, resume and a legal writing sample with “Sr. Health Attorney” in the subject line to humanresources@mlri.org.

Deadline for Submission:
Application materials will be reviewed and interviews will be scheduled on a rolling basis; interested and qualified candidates are strongly encouraged to submit application materials promptly.

Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion:
MLRI is an equal opportunity employer. We believe that having an inclusive culture and a staff, board, and volunteers with diverse personal and professional backgrounds and lived experience enhances our ability to meet our mission and creates an environment where all members of our community can thrive. We strongly encourage applications from people of color, women, immigrants, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, people with lived experience of poverty, and people historically and presently excluded and marginalized.

For many renters, apartment application fees add up. Some are illegal (WBUR)

Below is an excerpt from an article published by WBUR on November 27, highlighting the rise of exploitative application fees for apartment hunters. Massachusetts Law Reform Insitute’s Andrea Park is quoted. 


Sheila Sanchez Ortiz moved from Puerto Rico to New Bedford last year to start a new life with her two kids. On a limited income in a new city, she knew finding an affordable apartment would be a challenge. But she wasn’t expecting to have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees — just to see the apartments.

“You want to see a place, first you have to pay,” she said in Spanish. “I’d fill out an application, and nobody would even call me back.”

Amid a region-wide housing shortage, advocates say application fees are on the rise, even when they’re not allowed. Massachusetts is one of the only states where it’s illegal for landlords to charge application fees. But with little enforcement of the law, advocates say these charges are becoming an entry fee to finding an apartment.

Ortiz spent almost a year apartment hunting, she said, and paid application fees four times for places that did not work out. Interviews with multiple New Bedford-area renters suggest her experience is common — and some are paying these fees upwards of a dozen times.

Housing activist and real estate agent Carlos Betancourt spends much of his time helping low-income renters find apartments. He said the majority of places he sees charge application fees.

Betancourt explained how it often works: A listed apartment will come with an application fee of $25 to $70 — per adult. And, he said, that’s frequently just to view the place. He remembers attending an open house where everybody interested in the apartment had to pay. The open house lasted three days.

Read more at WBUR.

Massachusetts’ shelter system is reaching capacity, threatening the state’s ability to fulfil its ‘right-to-shelter’ law, says Gov. Maura Healey (The Berkshire Eagle)

Below is an excerpt from an article The Berkshire Eagle published on October 17, drawing attention to the consequences of Massachusetts’ overfilling state shelter system. Massachusetts Law Reform Institutes’ Andrea Park is quoted. 


While its right-to-shelter law will remain in place, Massachusetts may not be able to guarantee shelter for immigrant families as soon as the end of this month as the state’s shelter system reaches capacity, Gov. Maura Healey said Monday.

There are close to 7,000 families enrolled in the state’s emergency shelter system, Healey said Monday — more than double the number of individuals enrolled at this time last year, and up significantly from the 5,600 families being housed when Healey declared a state of emergency in August.

“We do not have enough space, service providers or funds to safely expand beyond 7,500 families. We expect to hit that limit at the end of the month,” Healey said during a State House news conference. “From that point on, we’ll no longer be able to guarantee shelter placement for new families entering.”

At over 23,000 people, the rapidly growing number of people in emergency shelter housing has now exceeded the population of 262 of the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts, based on 2020 census data.

Read more at The Berkshire Eagle.