The LAV Grant Program is intended to increase the availability of civil and criminal legal assistance needed to effectively aid adult and youth (ages 11 and older) victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by providing funds for comprehensive direct legal services to victims in legal matters relating to or arising out of that abuse or violence. From its inception, this project involved regular, two-way dialogue from Human Options and Community Legal Aid SoCal about the systemic barriers we were seeing with our clients–and how we could address them–together. When this project began in 2018, no one could have foreseen how much more challenging navigating the legal landscape, and accessing legal services, would become for survivors in 2020 and 2021. The innovative nature of the LAV project lay in its pairing of experienced family law attorneys and paralegals (who could serve as liaisons to attorneys and paralegals in all other departments of Community Legal Aid SoCal) with Human Options legal advocates well versed in trauma-informed care and well connected to wraparound domestic violence services at Human Options including shelter, transitional housing, counseling, empowerment classes, community-based services and more.
Together, we could accomplish what neither agency could have done on its own. And, in the process of striving to assist the clients over the past three years, we have had the opportunity to learn so much from each other. Because of the dozens of scheduled formal trainings hosted by CLA and nearly weekly learning opportunities in our case management meetings, the Human Options Legal Advocacy team (and indeed many other Human Options therapists, case managers, family advocates, and hotline advocates) have a monumentally better understanding of some many different legal issues that impact survivors of domestic violence. Similarly, the LAV-funded team at CLA (and many attorneys and paralegals outside of our LAV funding) have a richer and more comprehensive understanding of trauma-informed care, of the day-to-day barriers that survivors face, and all of the supportive services available to survivors at Human Options. We have forged lasting relationships through this project that will continue to provide a foundation for ongoing collaboration and partnership. The team is excited to apply for LAV funding in 2022 to continue this critical work.