When the Village of Hope campus opened and our first residents came to live here, I quickly noticed a need for legal assistance. The residents that pass through our gates are often burdened by the mistakes of their past that hold them back from finding employment or housing. I commissioned an attorney that had been volunteering with us, Bryan Kazarian, to find a way for the Orange County Rescue Mission to open a legal clinic on site.
Bryan began meeting with law schools in the surrounding area and it was very clear that Trinity Law School was the perfect fit. Not only is Trinity geographically close to the Mission, but it’s faith-based mission of serving others closely aligned with ours. In 2009, the Trinity Law School Legal Clinic officially opened and has been assisting our residents ever since!
This clinic is offered as a class to the law students at Trinity, which mutually benefits both organizations by allowing the law students to gain practical experience outside of the classroom. Most often, the law students assist with record clearing, custody and child support cases, and debt issues. They do not offer representation, but instead assist with paperwork and research, as well as legal advising. In this way, they are able to educate the residents of the Mission with a goal of teaching them how to navigate the legal system so they are able to continue the work they have started even after they leave the Mission.
Joy Statler is a professor at Trinity Law School and she now oversees this program. “It is one of my favorite aspects of what I do as a lawyer,” Joy says. “There is a need for legal assistance and we are blessed to be allowed to be a part of [meeting] it.” Joy says that a majority of the students that take her class and volunteer in the legal clinic are affected in the way that they practice law throughout their career. They learn to serve and use their license to help people.
It is a requirement built-in to the program for the residents of the Orange County Rescue Mission to meet with the Trinity Law Clinic at least once during their program. This gives the Trinity Law students a unique opportunity of being able to meet with every resident that passes through our gates. “ We hear the stories and the paths people have walked and what God has brought them through,” Joy says. “We see God move!”
Joy and the Trinity Law School have been a blessing to the Orange County Rescue Mission since the law clinic opened its doors on our campus seven years ago. I am so thankful to the law students and professors that donate their time to serve the Least, Last, and Lost here at the Mission and help our homeless and hurting neighbors find hope in situations where they once felt powerless. Because of Trinity Law’s work, these people are now offered a chance to be free of the mistakes of their past and move forward to a self-sufficient future.