Case study 1: breaking the homeless cycle

Since it began eight years ago, the Homeless
Person’s Legal Service
has helped
vulnerable and disadvantaged people to achieve justice. Almost 7,000 people have
attended the free HPLS legal clinics and received advice regarding fines,
guardianship, personal injury, social security and tenancy.

HPLS is a highly
effective public interest collaboration that brings together 350 lawyers acting
pro bono from commercial law firms, Legal Aid NSW, homelessness service
providers and PILCH NSW. HPLS is run, supervised and managed by PIAC.

Since January 2008, PIAC
has employed Jeremy Rea as an experienced criminal lawyer. Jeremy is the HPLS
Solicitor Advocate. He defends homeless clients in the local and district
courts in minor criminal matters such as minor drug use, theft or offensive

Many of Jeremy’s clients
report having a mental illness or drug and alcohol dependency, and almost half
have spent time in jail. A very large proportion of HPLS clients have suffered
physical and emotional abuse.

For people experiencing
homelessness, there is too often an entrenched cycle of mental illness,
offending and reoffending. This can often lead to vulnerable people spending
considerable time in custody, but with little or no benefit to the community if
the underlying causes of their offending are untreated.

By diverting homeless
clients out of the justice system, HPLS is able to give many an opportunity to
seek treatment, with the prospect of better outcomes for all.

At the same time, the
HPLS work enables PIAC to better formulate policy and law responses that help
address the root causes of homelessness.

Photo: Flickr

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