Onward Toward a Meaningful Career: A CLS Client Story

Tanya and her baby were living in a homeless shelter when she met an attorney from Community Legal Services (CLS).

Growing up, Tanya had been in and out of the foster care system, in part because she was sexually assaulted when she was a child. When she was 17, Tanya had so little money that she could not even afford underwear, and was caught taking a pair from a store. She was issued a summary citation for retail theft, the most minor type of criminal offense in Pennsylvania. Because she did not have a reliable address, she never received the notice for court, and a bench warrant was issued. To make her life even harder, Tanya was also struggling with depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of her childhood trauma.

Tanya was trapped by her multiple legal problems. Her bench warrant led to her being rejected from jobs that she was qualified for, so she could not afford housing. The longer she lived in a shelter, the more depressed she felt. Even though she was receiving mental health treatment, she was overwhelmed and struggling to get by. She applied for SSI disability benefits to help support her and her baby. But like so many qualified applicants, she was denied.

CLS assigned expert attorneys to tackle Tanya’s legal problems holistically. We were able to get the bench warrant withdrawn and immediately petition for an expungement of Tanya’s record. We also connected Tanya to a program that helps people who are experiencing homelessness to apply for SSI benefits on a fast track.

Now that Tanya has stable income, she can move forward and access opportunities. She is eager to enroll in the Job Corps program so she can continue her education and find a meaningful career.