Maine Homeless Legal Clinic starts in Portland

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — When you think about how to end homelessness, finding a few good lawyers probably isn’t the first idea that comes to mind. But the lawyers, judges and advocates for the homeless behind the Maine Homeless Legal Clinic believe legal assistance may be all some clients need to get back on their feet.

The new effort was announced Thursday. Law firms pledge to staff a weekly clinic at Preble Street for a month, one hour at a time. Clients who need more assistance can get legal representation pro bono.

David Soley, an attorney with Bernstein Shur who is heading up the effort in Maine, says enough law firms have signed on that the clinic should be staffed for at least a year.

Portland will be the 22nd city in the country to start this program. It was founded in New Orleans by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey, who was inspired after visiting a soup kitchen.

In Portland Thursday, Zainey said of the homeless, “No one treats them with dignity and respect. But when they have the opportunity to speak with an attorney who treats them like a human being, they will say — we have stories like this all around the country — ‘I just spoke with my lawyer.'”