Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services Community Partnerships
Housing and Benefits Resource Materials and Trainings
- On request, CASLS provides trainings primarily for advocates and agency staff on housing and benefits issues. This includes: regular presentations at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE); Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI)’s Basic Benefits training workshop on advocating for the working poor; MCLE/MLRI’s Accessing Affordable Housing; the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Landlord/Tenant Law Seminar conducted jointly with a landlord attorney and judges; and the National Association of Social Workers lead conference session on housing and homelessness.
- CASLS is actively involved in updating resource books and materials to assist pro se tenants and lay advocates representing low income clients on housing and benefits issues. This includes collaborating with others to update the handbook Legal Tactics, (which provides guidance to tenants representing themselves in eviction pleadings when lawyers are not available) as well as the National Housing Law Project’s HUD Housing Programs: Tenants’ Rights .
- Local Housing/Benefits Coalition
For many years, CASLS and Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) have jointly organized and presented at the Local Housing/Benefits Coalition monthly meeting. Each meeting has information about changes and updates in housing and benefits law and practices and helpful materials.
Onsite Collaborative Services at the Cambridge Multi-Service Center
CASLS works closely with the Cambridge Multi-Service Center staff in preventing homelessness. This includes holding intake hours at the Multi-Service Center on a regular basis. Often CASLS provides legal assistance for a client, while the Multi-Service Center provides case management and homeless prevention funds for the same client.
Homeless Prevention Fundraising and Financing
For many years, CASLS (along with partner agencies of Somerville Community Corporation, Somerville Homeless Coalition, and Community Action of Somerville) has organized a walk every May to raise flexible funds to prevent homelessness of low income Somerville residents. This 5 kilometer walk includes a tour of some of the affordable housing in East Somerville. In 2011, the event raised over $27,000.
Additionally, through its close collaborations with other agencies — including those in Cambridge, Somerville, and Arlington — CASLS has been able to access a variety of federal stimulus and other funds to help prevent homelessness of its low income clients and, in some instances, has assisted in determining the criteria and process for accessing these funds.
CASLS actively participates in the following groups:
- Somerville Affordable Housing Organizing Committee (AHOC)
This committee plans the Somerville Homeless Prevention Walk described above. It engages in various campaigns including developing anti-displacement policies to lessen the anticipated harmful effects of the Green Line expansion on low income residents.
- Somerville/Arlington Homeless Providers Group
This group meets monthly to share information and network with homeless service providers.
- Cambridge Homeless Services Planning Committee
This committee meets monthly to share information and network with homeless service providers.
- Somerville LIFT
CASLS provides training and technical support to volunteer college students assisting low income persons with housing, benefits, job, and other issues.
- Reaching Out Against Depression
CASLS is a member of the advisory board and provides training for student advocates who assist low income women suffering from depression.
- Cambridge Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) Advisory Committee
CASLS assists in the development and implementation of policies and forms for the city’s HPRP program and participates in the appeals committee for those appealing a denial of financial assistance.
- Somerville Tenancy Preservation Collaborative
CASLS shares information with Community Action Agency of Somerville, Somerville Homeless Coalition, Somerville Community Corporation, Somerville Mental Health Association, Catholic Charities, and Somerville LIFT and jointly advocate for better policies affecting those at risk of homelessness in Somerville.