Happy Valentine’s Day from Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic! This February, we’re remembering all the reasons we love the Clinic, the work we do, our clients, volunteers, and supporters like YOU. Please enjoy this small sampling of why we’re brimming over with love this Valentine’s Day! And remember, just like it says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”
Serious crimes and convictions only make up 15% to 20% of the approximately 45,000 charges filed every year. Therefore, for the MCPO, protecting the public means dealing with lesser crimes in a more innovative way. “The idea is if you can address those problems of criminogenic needs then perhaps you can get them back on a straight path. You can’t just address the drug problem; you can’t just address the alcohol problem; you can’t just address the mental health needs,” Andrew says. “You’ve also got to work with different groups and agencies so that you can help them find a better place to live, get a job—which is not just a job, it’s something that’s more career oriented for them. Try to help them keep their families together.”
Due to recent events, the Clinic hopes to clarify and provide information to the public and our supporters regarding refugees. In the upcoming days, we’ll be sharing stories of just a few of the clients we have come to know and appreciate on social media, so be sure to like us on Facebook. We’ll also be sharing more information about why the Clinic serves refugees and why we believe this work is an important part of our mission.
While Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic’s main office is located in Indianapolis, there is also a satellite office in Ft. Wayne. Desiree Koger-Gustafson serves as its Director and part-time attorney, while Cathy Warney serves as the only full-time employee. In addition to her paralegal duties, she also handles reception and coordinates volunteers. “My days are pretty crazy,” says Cathy. “I wear lots of hats.”
Many of Southeastern’s programs begin in this manner, with a member of the congregation championing a cause they care about. Preaching Minister Greg York says of this philosophy, “So much of that stuff is better if you let it grow organically than if you try to impose it from above.” He loves when parishioners become excited about a new project. “If someone has recognized a need and is willing to lay themselves down to be part of the solution, then I want to support that,” Greg says. “And Russell clearly had a passion when he came to us.”
The newest addition to the Victim Justice Program (VJP) came to the Legal Clinic by way of the Prosecutor’s Office. For the past several years, Annie Anderson prosecuted major felonies and worked some jury trials, with cases involving crimes like kidnapping, confinement, and armed robberies. While she enjoyed seeking justice for victims in the courtroom, she found herself wanting to work more directly with those in need.
Happy New Year! Above is a look back at the Clinic’s photo highlights from 2016–an abundant year filled with abundant life! In partnership with Outreach, Inc., we launched our Homeless Youth Justice Program this year, which allows us to provide free legal services to one of Indianapolis’ most vulnerable, and often-underserved populations. We also expanded our Victim Justice Program thanks to a VOCA grant through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, helping us to better meet the great need in our community.
Upon serving as an intake attorney at John Knox Presbyterian Church back in 2006, Matthew first became aware of the need for free legal services. “I thought I was aware of it, but I really wasn’t,” he says. “Until you sit down with people who need the help, who explain their situation, who have never really been able to talk to someone who they believe can help them, and suddenly you’re sitting down in a room with them one-on-one… That’s when you realize the need that exists and the good that can come from just giving a little bit of time.”
Although this sometimes made the case a bit more difficult, Director of the Ft. Wayne office Desiree Koger-Gustafson says, “[The parents] wanted to make it legal and be able to decide for themselves when they want to tell [their children] about their biological father.” Both Samantha and Carl hoped to complete the adoption as quickly as possible before the boys got any older. “They had not ever been around their biological dad since they were babies and they were getting to the age where they might find out in an unpleasant manner,” Desiree says.