McGeorge School of Law third-year law student Ismael Perez is a Certified Law Student in McGeorge’s Homeless Advocacy Clinic. Photo by Victoria Ambriz.

I began working as a Certified Law Student for the Homeless Advocacy Clinic (HAC) in August 2022 and instantly realized the importance of the work we were doing for people experiencing homelessness. HAC’s Supervising Attorney Ron Hochbaum and Staff Attorney Tori Larson explained to me and the other law students that HAC embraced a holistic approach to representing its clients. That meant we also assisted our clients with the other issues they face on top of helping them with their legal issues. The HAC assists people experiencing homelessness or individuals who are housing insecure with legal issues, such as obtaining social security benefits, fighting their tickets, and providing criminal record remedies. Besides that, we also assisted our clients with countless other issues they faced.

I quickly discovered the importance of the holistic approach as I began to represent my own clients and handle their cases. Many times, my clients called upon me to help them with their life and day-to-day issues. Many of my clients suffer from physical and/or mental health problems that make normal day-to-day tasks even more difficult for them. I would assist clients by scheduling medical appointments, calling public entities like the welfare office or the Superior Court, getting transportation set up for them to make it to appointments, standing in line at the food bank so that they could have food, and applying or checking what services they were eligible for. The work I was doing made me realize that what I was providing was life-changing for my clients.

These activities could have been tedious at times for a legal representative, but I realized that doing this work meant that my client could get the treatment they desperately needed to function properly or have food or shelter. Without these services, it would be hard for my client to even focus on their legal issues as they are more worried about their basic human needs. Being able to assist my clients and provide these services for them helped build trust, which led to better legal representation.

Public work and volunteering have been interests of mine since I was an undergraduate student. I am doing so much fulfilling work that I am extremely grateful for at this level of my educational career. Many times, our unhoused neighbors are discriminated against and blamed for their life circumstances. I am proud of the work I have provided and what it means for my clients, but I am even more excited for HAC’s continued success and all the lives that will be touched by McGeorge students in the future. The 120 hours that each student spends at the Clinic per semester is no big feat for a law student, but it could mean the world to HAC’s clients.

By Ismael Perez, a third-year law student at McGeorge School of Law.