American Bar Association launches national Homeless Youth Legal Network and HYLN Pro Bono Project

Homeless youth in the United States remain a largely invisible segment of the homeless population, though researchers estimate that nearly eight percent of youths experience living on the streets. 

The American Bar Association is a nationally recognized leader in addressing the legal needs of vulnerable populations, including homeless youth. Lawyers play a critical role in improving outcomes for homeless youth by enforcing existing laws as well as advancing new policy and removing legal barriers to benefits, education, employment, health care, housing, identification, treatment and services.

In an effort to increase legal services for this vulnerable population, the ABA Commission on Homelessness & PovertyCommission on Youth at Risk, and Section of Litigation Children’s Rights Litigation Committee has announced the official launch of the ABA Homeless Youth Legal Network. HYLN is designed to serve:

  • Homeless youth seeking legal assistance
  • Service providers working with homeless youth
  • Lawyers seeking training or technical assistance

“The Homeless Youth Legal Network is a fine example of how the American Bar Association can link youth experiencing homelessness with experts in the legal community who can help,” ABA President Linda A. Klein said. “This project, made possible with a grant from the ABA Enterprise Fund, shows how we can harness the power and reach of the ABA to improve access to justice by providing much-needed legal assistance to vulnerable populations.”

In the past few months, the HYLN has:

  • Launched a website, which contains additional information about the network, and will be a repository for resources related to meeting homeless youth’s legal needs
  • Surveyed more than 300 individuals and groups about the legal needs of youth in their community
  • Launched a listserv for attorneys and other advocates for homeless youth with more than 250 members
  • Began providing training and technical assistance to legal services providers and homelessness programs
HYLN Pro Bono 

HYLN Pro Bono is an exciting new American Bar Association initiative dedicated to improving the lives of homeless youth. Attorneys and law firms are invited to collaborate in Homeless Youth Legal Network Pro Bono: a project aimed at meeting the legal needs of youth and young adults served by drop-in centers or staying in homeless shelters throughout the United States.

HYLN Pro Bono will encourage and equip the more than 400,000 members of the ABA plus lawyers across the United States to volunteer at local homeless youth shelters and drop-in centers to provide free legal services to youth and young adults. The ABA's HYLN Hotline will provide additional connectivity and support to legal services lawyers, pro bono lawyers, youth and providers.

The project's goal is to match lawyers and law firms with shelters, drop-in centers and other homeless youth providers.

HYLN Pro Bono lawyers will collaborate with shelter staff to determine the best approach to legal assistance. Options include:

  • Direct representation of individual youth with urgent legal needs such as questions about criminal cases, denial of public benefits, school expulsion, etc.
  • Live legal clinics to represent groups of youth who all have similar legal needs, including obtaining identification documents, applications for college funding, expungement of records, immigration status, consumer issues, etc.
  • Live legal education or "Know Your Rights" presentations to teach youth about important issues such as rights in foster care, rights as employees/ job applicants, options for federal funding for college, etc.

HYLN Pro Bono is buoyed by the work of the emerging Homeless Youth Legal Network which supports local legal aid organizations, nonprofit agencies, state and local bar associations, law schools and pro bono legal programs by increasing their capacity to effectively meet the legal needs of homeless youth and young adults living in their communities, and developing new programs where legal services currently do not exist. 

For HYLN Pro Bono, this national network will support new pro bono efforts by connecting volunteer lawyers with seasoned homeless youth lawyers to provide training, guidance and mentorship.  The ABA's HYLN Hotline will provide additional connectivity and support to legal services lawyers, pro bono lawyers, youth and providers.

If you are interested in participating in HYLN Pro Bono or to learn more about the initiative, please email or call Kelly Russo at (202) 662-1699.

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