In my 1L year, I went to a post-COVID talk hosted by the Capital Center for Law & Policy about the future of downtowns. The panelists took questions ranging from the constraints of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) litigation to how to get one specific man’s building permit for one of his rentals processed faster. To get there, I walked past the California State Capitol Building. I was accustomed to seeing unhoused people sleeping alongside the borders of the Capitol’s garden, but on this night the complete absurdity of the situation struck me. Empty buildings, empty structures and no mass civic interest in addressing the problem.
At the time I am writing this, it is estimated that California is the world’s fifth largest economy. What that means in the face of a real humanitarian crisis? I’m not entirely sure — though I strongly suspect it suggests GDP is not the end all be all metric for the health of a society. But I knew I wanted to get a more concrete view of the systemic issues that create, encourage, and perpetuate the poverty cycle, which is what brought me to the Homeless Advocacy Clinic (HAC) run by Professor Ron Hochbaum and Staff Attorney Tori Larson.
Before I began my summer internship with the HAC, I had approximately zero appreciation for what the conditions of being unsheltered can do to someone over time. It does not take long to start understanding the chasm that exists between the systems in place and the ground truth of what it’s like to live outside while trying access underfunded programs that are not to scale of the problem. The clinic will introduce you to real clients, acquaint you with their stories, and give you a boots-on-the-ground perspective on what it’s like to be unhoused in Sacramento.
As a student intern at the Clinic, I have been able to practice and develop many skills I’ll need for my life as an attorney. Now that I’m a Certified Law Student, I have been able to appear on the record on behalf of a client, develop case strategy ahead of a trial, and so much more. The Clinic takes a client-centered and trauma informed approach that students can apply to more than their professional lives. It’s been my privilege to learn the harm reduction principles of the Clinic and become acquainted with professionals who’ve dedicated their careers to assisting the most vulnerable in our community. It’s both encouraging and humbling to see the work that’s currently underway by advocates to help those across the state who have been most impacted by homelessness and housing insecurity.
By Tara Paris, a second-year student at McGeorge School of Law.