Legal aid staffers and volunteer lawyers from some large firms in Texas were at booths handing out legal aid brochures on Wednesday to Hurricane Harvey victims staying at a shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston and at other large American Red Cross shelters.
“We are just trying to shove flyers in everybody’s hands and then later when they will need help, they can come see the lawyers,” said Saundra Brown, manager of the Disaster Response Unit at Lone Star Legal Aid.
The flyers include information Harvey victims will need on such topics as applying for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance, or how to avoid contractor fraud, she said.
The booths that have been quickly set up at the shelters in Houston are the first beachhead in a major legal aid system that will be operated jointly through Texas legal aid organizations that include Lone Star, the Houston Bar Association and other local bar associations, and the American Bar Association.
Brown said Lone Star has asked for private space at the shelters so lawyers can do intake and give legal advice to Harvey victims. But the space has not yet been arranged.
Meanwhile, the Houston Bar Association will ask lawyers to sign up by Thursday for volunteer slots for clinics that will be up and running soon at the shelters, said Alistair Dawson, a partner at Beck Redden in Houston who is president of the HBA. He said the lawyers expect initially to volunteer at shelters at the George R Brown Convention Center, the Toyota Center, NRG Center and at Lakewood Church, and then move out to other smaller shelters.
According to the American Red Cross, more than 17,000 people are in 45 shelters in Texas in the wake of Harvey’s destruction, including more than 8,000 in the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Dawson said the HBA will operate its Legal Line every night beginning Sept. 5 so that people can talk to lawyers on the phone.
“Beyond that, we are going to set up clinics,” he said.