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Legal Clinic for the Homeless

Cases & Credits

A Spanish-speaking homeless mother of two

Ms. M., a Spanish-speaking homeless mother of two, has been staying at a shelter in Queens with her two children. Her 19-year-old daughter has Down's syndrome and acute leukemia and her nine-year-old daughter has severe learning disabilities.

In March of 2008, the City welfare agency reduced Ms. M.'s public assistance benefits from $109 in cash semi-monthly to $54.50 because she failed to comply with the City's rules that require public assistance recipients to go to workfare appointments and assignments. Ms. M. attempted to explain to agency employees in Spanish that she needed to be with her daughter while she was undergoing chemotherapy in the hospital and begged them to restore her benefits and exempt her from welfare work requirements. They refused to listen to her and her grant remained at $54.50.

Desperate for help, in June 2008 Ms. M. attended a City Bar Justice Center legal clinic at her shelter and met with a volunteer lawyer from Citigroup. The lawyer collected documentation of Ms. M.'s daughter's medical condition and hospital stays and sent it to top-level City welfare agency administrators, who granted Ms. M. an exemption from participation in the workfare program, raised her benefits to their proper level and restored the benefits that had been cut.