Who is Emily Allen? Her name pops up in countless Santa Barbara discussions of homelessness and organizations that seek to serve those on the streets. She is a lawyer in Santa Barbara, and her life speaks for itself…
Emily is a Santa Barbara local, born and raised. She graduated from Loyola Law School in 2004 and returned home with an invigorated passion for advocacy. At Loyola, she was exposed to the General Relief Advocacy Program (GRAP), a program in Los Angeles that gives law students the opportunity to legally advocate for those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and other dire situations. Her experience with GRAP cast vision of a more holistic legal approach. During this time, Emily further recognized the importance of representing vulnerable people, but also speaking with them and connecting them to vital life services. With inspiration from her own father, a Santa Barbara lawyer who has dedicated himself to advocacy work, Emily began working at Legal Aid.
Emily’s role as lawyer involves direct services to those who are homeless, which often involves representing them in Restorative Court. This unique program is weekly and voluntary. Restorative Court gives people who are issued tickets for homeless-related crimes (sleeping and camping tickets, public drinking, ect.) different options, options other than the often repetitive, unreasonable, and unproductive jail-sentences and fines. Restorative Court gives people on the streets an opportunity to volunteer. After a certain number of volunteer hours, their homeless-related ticket is dismissed. The Court allows for individualized case management, often directing those in need towards available services in the city.
More information needs to circulate about homelessness, so Emily helps to educate. As the managing attorney of the Homeless Education and Legal Project (HELP), she hosts forums, invests in Law Student interns, shows documentaries, and organizes volunteer programs. HELP is part of the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County (http://www.lafsbc.org/). The education-focused aspect of her work moves the community further towards collaboration and support. A vision that Emily has for the Santa Barbara homeless community, and those who seek to aid and empower those on the streets, is one of collaboration. As was outlined in the “Searching For Solutions” article, recommended by Emily and posted below, the city needs cohesion in its services. And not only cohesion, but also support. If someone moves into housing from the streets, they need supportive services and community to surround them. Housing options need to multiply, absolutely, which Emily affirms. However, she also knows that housing that isn’t holistic will not serve the needs of those being housed.
Emily continues to move towards her vision, consistently being inspired by people she meets. As one of her favorite quotations from Martin Luther King Jr. reads, “Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history and every family is living in a decent sanitary home.” Thank you, Emily, for all you do.
To support the Homeless Education and Legal Project (HELP), please donate to the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County and write HELP in the memo lino.
Written By: Kyli Sessions