One of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s core activities is to serve as a constructive partner to the civil legal aid organizations in Philadelphia. During this unprecedented time of physical distancing, communication and support are even more vital. With this in mind, we have compiled these resources in response to COVID-19.
We are Engaging in Collaborative Efforts
We are making every attempt to stay closely connected to the emerging efforts being taken by the public interest sector in Philadelphia. We are exploring ways that collaboration can more efficiently and quickly help to direct resources to our most vulnerable neighbors. As we learn more and solidify our role in such partnerships, we will continue to communicate those plans on this page.
Emergency Funding from the Philadelphia Bar Foundation
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation Board of Trustees acted decisively to support legal aid agencies in response to the negative economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In April, just over $250,000 was authorized for immediate distribution to our 2019 grantees to help alleviate some of the unexpected pressure on the public interest community. In addition, as part of this deliberative emergency response, the Board has agreed that the Foundation will dispense with the traditional grant application process for 2020. Pending the Foundation’s fundraising achievements and developments in the market through the rest of this unprecedented year, the Bar Foundation intends to provide additional grants in December 2020.
We are Committed to Taking Care of Each Other
Our vision is a Philadelphia community in which everyone has equal access to justice, and we are still actively working on advancing our mission. Now is a time for all of us to turn our attention to the health and well-being of our children, parents, siblings, and neighbors. Until there is a stable response to the crisis that has been created by the coronavirus pandemic, this must be our focus. We hope these resources will help.
Resources and Information
Many legal aid agencies have assembled helpful resources. Suggestions and additions are welcome (email Laura Powers), and we will continue to update this page as needed.
Pennsylvania-specific resources for helping students experiencing homelessness and students in the foster care system to adjust during the COVID-19 outbreak via Education Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research, The Hope Center, and Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
The staff at AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, which provides free legal resources for those living with HIV/AIDs and educates the public about HIV/AIDs legal issues, is working remotely and can be contacted by phone or email. They have compiled a Coronavirus Bulletin with updates on benefits and services.
The American Civil Liberties Union of PA, which defends and expands the rights of Pennsylvanians through advocacy, education, and litigation, is operating its legal intake department at a limited capacity and is available to review complaints filed online. It created a website devoted to COVID-19, containing its efforts to hold government accountable during the pandemic, which it plans to update regularly.
Atlantic Center for Capital Representation works locally and nationally with those impacted by the criminal legal system to ensure that individuals facing the death penalty receive the best legal representation possible. They are currently working remotely, monitoring death penalty cases across the state and holding case specific consultations via phone calls and Zoom. Find current updates on their blog.
CeaseFirePA works to reduce gun violence in Pennsylvania through education and advocacy. They have established a new text alert system for legislative alerts, advocacy tips, and event information and are currently running free #WebinarWednesdays with information and updates to keep Pennsylvanians safe.
The staff at Community Legal Services, which provides low income Philadelphians with advice, representation, and advocacy in an array of civil legal aid issues, are working remotely. CLS is accepting new clients by phone and more information can be found on their website. The intake number is 215-981-3700. CLS is also sharing updates and resources from other agencies on their Twitter.
Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project is open and accepting cases to help those struggling with their finances and facing significant and overwhelming debt. Find current updates and resources on their Twitter and on Facebook.
The staff of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Philadelphia, which trains volunteers to serve as advocates for children in the foster care system, are working remotely and are available by phone or web-meeting platforms. They are sharing updates and resources on their Facebook page and on their Twitter.
Disability Rights Pennsylvania, which protects and advocates for the rights of disabled individuals, is continuing live intake Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at (800) 692-7443. They have posted a resource page for individuals with disabilities seeking information on the status of various services, offices and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read updates and resources on their Twitter.
Education Law Center, which fights to ensure all children in Pennsylvania have access to quality public education through advocacy and impact litigation, has closed their physical offices and staff remain fully accessible and operational. ELC’s Helpline numbers are 215-238-6970 or 412-258-2120 (Western PA). Find current updates and resources on their website, on their Twitter, and on Facebook.
The offices of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services, which provides legal services, advocacy, and education to underserved immigrants, are closed and you can find information about specific Esperanza programs and entities on their website. They are also sharing updates on their Twitter.
In addition to providing various health and social services, Face to Face, located in Germantown, offers legal services in the areas of public benefits; credit problems; utilities; landlord/tenant; boarding home disputes; Social Security benefits; and help in obtaining legal identification. Face to Face is currently providing food package distribution on Mondays and Fridays from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. For legal advice via tele-services, call Anna Brickman at 215-438-7939 x230.
The staff of Good Shepherd Mediation Program, which empowers residents to solve conflicts peacefully and creatively, are working remotely and can be reached via the online form on their website. They have partnered with the City of Philadelphia to offer free virtual Landlord-Tenant Mediation Sessions to help Philadelphia landlords and tenants resolve issues related to COVID-19 disruptions or other challenges. Anyone interested in scheduling a session with a neutral, third party mediator should contact Good Shepherd Mediation Program directly at [email protected] or by phone at 215-843-5413, ext 228. (Attorneys & advocates should call or text GSMP Program Administrator Sue Wasserkrug, Esq. at 267-738-6500.) Have the contact information for both parties (landlord and tenant) available for the intake staff.
HIAS Pennsylvania, which provides legal and supportive services to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from all backgrounds, is open for business and working remotely. They continue to do intake and provide immigration legal support, but have cancelled all in-person events and moved some events to virtual platforms. Sign up for e-blasts from HIAS-PA and review their Facebook page for the latest updates.
Homeless Advocacy Project, which provides free, high quality civil legal services to individuals and families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness in Philadelphia, can be reached by phone or email and staff are working remotely. For urgent matters, call 215-523-9595 or 1-800-837-2672 or email Michele at [email protected]. They continue to post updates on their Twitter and on Facebook.
Juvenile Law Center, which protects and advances children's rights in courts, legislatures, and executive agencies, continues to be available by email and phone. You can find information about their coronavirus response on their website and updates on their Twitter and on Facebook.
The staff of the Legal Clinic for the Disabled, which provides legal services to low-income individuals with physical disabilities, are working remotely but can be reached during regular business hours at 215-587-3158. They continue to share updates on their Twitter and on Facebook.
Mazzoni Center, which provides quality legal, health, and wellness services to LGBTQ+ individuals, has closed Mazzoni Center (Bainbridge Street facility) and their Washington West Project (HIV testing & STI screenings), and will continue to post updates for patients and clients on their website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.
Nationalities Service Center, which provides services for immigrants and refugees in the Philadelphia area, has transitioned to phone-based client services. Clients can find resources on their website and continues to share important updates on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
The Pennsylvania Health Law Project, which protects and advances the health rights of low income individuals through legal services and advocacy, is actively posting updates and news on their Twitter and Facebook page. Their helpline is open every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. at 1-800-274-3258, and you can find their COVID-19 Resource Center on their website.
Offices are closed at the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center, which provides access to justice for vulnerable immigrants and their families, but clients can reach advocates by phone at 717-600-8099.
Pennsylvania Innocence Project staff are working remotely on behalf of people who were wrongly convicted. This is a particularly stressful time for people living in close quarters in prison with the threat of contracting the virus. Read more on their website about the steps they are taking to help.
Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, which provides free legal assistance in civil matters to low-income people who are incarcerated, has posted a prisoners' rights COVID-19 (coronavirus) information sheet for PA prisons and jails and is sharing updates on their Twitter and Facebook page.
Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is the go-to source for information about the courts in Pennsylvania. Check their website and social media feeds (Facebook) for up-to-date information on court scheduling and restrictions on operations. During the COVID-19 crisis, PMC will be publishing a daily newsletter which includes the most recent information about COVID-19's impact on the courts. In addition, please reach out to the PMC Listens(TM) helpline at 267-834-5256 with questions about the courts. While in-person programming is being postponed, they will be conducting interactive online webinars for those who want to learn more about our judicial system and how to navigate it, as well as CLE/CJE programming.
The Philadelphia Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service, which provides referrals to attorneys in private practice, is fully operational. Calls to their intake line are handled Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm, at 215-238-6333. Referrals can be obtained at any time through their website.
Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, which provides free legal services to low-income Philadelphia residents with criminal records, has temporarily suspended in-person intake clinics but offers online intake for the expungement process on their website. Find updates on their Twitter and Facebook page.
Philadelphia Legal Assistance, which provides free civil legal services, advice, and referrals for low income Philadelphians, has moved to telephone and online intake only and their staff is working remotely. Find hours and phone numbers for each of their unit intake lines and updates on their website. Helpful information about unemployment compensation can be found on their Facebook page, and they continue to share updates on their Twitter.
The team at Philadelphia VIP, which works to provide quality volunteer legal services and ensure access to justice for low income Philadelphians, is working from home and their trainings and events are moving to phone or video conference call when feasible. As ever, small businesses and nonprofit organizations can apply directly for legal assistance.
Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts is continuing to provide legal services for the arts and culture community, but has amended intake procedures and eligibility criteria in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
The Public Interest Law Center, which advances the civil, social, and economic rights of communities facing discrimination, inequality, and poverty, has updates on their website and is sharing relevant news and information for the Philadelphia region on their Facebook page and on their Twitter. Their staff is accessible and working remotely - you can reach them by email at [email protected].
The staff at Regional Housing Legal Services, which creates housing and economic opportunities in under-served communities across the state, is working remotely and actively sharing relevant news and updates on their Twitter. They also have resources and updates for homeowners and renters on their website.
SeniorLAW Center, which improves and protects the rights of older individuals through legal representation, education, and advocacy, has a list of resources and relevant information for older adults. Their physical offices are closed and team members are working remotely. Read their latest e-newsletter and subscribe here. They continue to share updates and relevant news on their Twitter and on their Facebook.
The offices are currently closed at Support Center for Child Advocates which provides pro bono legal and social services for children, but the agency is working virtually. Their social workers, volunteer attorneys, and staff attorneys are conducting virtual home visits and connecting with professionals to currently serve more than 800 child clients. Find updates on their Facebook page and their Twitter.
Hotline, text, and chat are running as usual for WOAR: Philadelphia Center for Sexual Violence, which fights to eliminate sexual violence through services, education, and advocacy. The WOAR office is closed. More information on the status of their services can be found on their website. They're sharing news and updates on their Twitter and on their Facebook.
Women Against Abuse, which provides services for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse, is working remotely and offering modified versions of many of their services.
Women's Law Project is a state-based public interest legal center devoted to protecting and expanding the rights of women, girls, and LGTBQ+ people in Pennsylvania and beyond. While their offices are physically closed, they are working remotely and will respond to calls for emergency legal assistance that are submitted to their telephone counseling service, including requests related to reproductive health, paid leave, domestic and sexual violence, sexual harassment, and sex and gender discrimination in schools, the workplace, and other institutions. They're also sharing relevant resources on their website and on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
The Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP), which works to keep children out of adult jails and prisons, and to bring home people who were sentenced as children to life in prison without the possibility of parole ("Juvenile Lifers"), continues to be available by email ([email protected]) and phone (267-703-8046). They are sharing relevant news and updates on their Facebook page.