A&L Goodbody supporting over 500 people with housing issues to date

A&L Goodbody supporting over 500 people with housing issues to date

Pictured (left–right): Mercy Law chair Edward Gleeson and managing solicitor Aoife Kelly-Desmond; Eithne Lynch of A&L Goodbody; and Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan and head of advocacy Mike Allen

A&L Goodbody LLP has provided pro bono housing law support to more than 500 people since the launch of a unique partnership with Mercy Law Resource Centre and Focus Ireland five years ago.

Established in 2018 with the help of the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), a project of legal rights group FLAC, the innovative housing law clinic remains as relevant as ever.

Through the clinic, ALG, with the assistance, support and guidance of Mercy Law and Focus Ireland, provides free, professional, and timely legal advice and representation to persons and families most impacted by the ongoing housing and homelessness crisis.

In their second report since the launch of the clinic, ALG, Mercy Law, and Focus Ireland examine and reflect on the impact of the clinic and the lessons learned from this unique partnership. The report particularly focuses on how the Covid-19 pandemic transformed the delivery of the project, the benefits and barriers of this.

Operating virtually has allowed the clinic to have a greater geographic reach and create efficiencies to the clinic. However, the lack of human connection and access to technology were noted as potential barriers for some to engage with the service.

Since commencing, 503 clients have been provided with end-to-end advice by ALG solicitors, with 287 supported virtually since the change in service. Eight in 10 of those supported through the clinic were based in Dublin with the remaining 20 per cent spread across a number of different counties.

Almost half of all the case referrals involved a family unit and one third identifying as coming from a minority group presenting with more than one legal issue.

David Widger, ALG managing partner, said: “ALG is proud that over the past five years, this unique partnership has enabled our lawyers to provide early legal advice to individuals and families affected by the housing and homelessness crisis.

“Our pro bono practice strives to increase and improve access to justice for those in our society who find themselves in the most vulnerable situations. Through this housing clinic, we have assisted clients in a time of real crisis and upheaval, and we look forward to continuing to do this through our partnership with Mercy Law and Focus Ireland.”

Aoife Kelly-Desmond, Mercy Law managing solicitor, said: “Many people facing homelessness need help to get through the legal barriers preventing them from accessing safe, secure housing. With civil legal aid largely unavailable for housing and homelessness matters, it is left to Mercy Law and other NGOs to step in.

“The scale of unmet legal need is significant, and this partnership is of huge value in linking a large pool of skilled lawyers with those facing a housing crisis. The continued operation of the clinic over a turbulent period is a testament to the flexibility, dedication and commitment of all involved to ensuring access to justice for our mutual clients.”

Mike Allen, director of advocacy at Focus Ireland, added: “As the housing crisis deepens, a wider group of people than ever before are finding themselves at risk of homelessness, often in complex circumstances.

“In these circumstances, access to reliable, professional legal advice is a vital service, and A&L Goodbody’s partnership with Mercy Law Centre and Focus Ireland’s advice and information services has proven to be a lifeline for many people facing distressing circumstances.”

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