Every week, the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) provides legal assistance to people experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness at ten different drop-in sites across Sydney. Our free legal clinics are staffed by volunteer lawyers, with more than 350 practitioners from a dozen different organisations supporting the program.
We are profiling some of our volunteers to give an insight into the work of HPLS, and what it’s like to be involved.
This month, we’re speaking with Daniel Hobbs, a solicitor with the law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth in Sydney.
Daniel began with HPLS about two and a half years ago, motivated by a desire to assist people with restricted access to legal services, and keen for a professional and personal learning experience.
He has found his involvement with HPLS has been rewarding both professionally and personally.
‘Legal advice and representation is something that everyone should be able to access; HPLS clients are often among those who need legal assistance most, yet often have the most restricted access to it,’ Daniel said.
When asked about cases where he felt he had made a real difference, Daniel nominated a client who had received a termination notice from Housing NSW, who he assisted to renegotiate his lease.
‘Were the client to be evicted, he would have been homeless,’ he said.
Over his time with HPLS, Daniel has been struck by the recurring legal problems arising from debt and mental health issues experienced by HPLS clients.
‘I have noticed that mental illness, homelessness and debt can go hand in hand, and that debt often generates more debt in the form of fees and charges.
‘It can be hard sometimes to separate an emotional response from a legal analysis when a client has been dealt a rough hand. It often helps to discuss the matter with other solicitors, to debrief, and then focus on addressing the issues that need to be addressed.’
Despite these challenges, Daniel said that he would highly recommend volunteering with HPLS, especially to a junior lawyer.
‘I think the other HPLS lawyers can be great role models and that the program promotes the development of a strong moral compass that can be carried over into any other type of legal practice.’