H.E.L.P. began in New Orleans in early 2004, when a newly appointed federal district court judge, Jay Zainey, accompanied his fellow judges to serve a meal at a local shelter. While serving the meal, Judge Zainey began to think how much more an attorney could do for the shelter clients, and how that kind of service could change people’s lives.

With that simple but electrifying thought, H.E.L.P. was born. Judge Zainey began to round up volunteer lawyers to staff a weekly clinic at the shelter, and had more success than he had ever imagined. Soon he had hundreds of lawyers, clinics in more than one shelter, and the desire to do even more. H.E.L.P. began to expand to other cities, prodded and encouraged by Judge Zainey and helped along by law firms who were volunteering in New Orleans but also had offices in other cities. Today, H.E.L.P. volunteers are providing free legal services to the homeless in over 15 cities, and the list continues to grow.

“The homeless population is used to being ignored. What this program does is give them a sense of self worth.”

Don Thompson, Director of New Orleans’ Tomson Center

Our Founder

Judge Jay C. Zainey was appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in 2002 after many years as a busy attorney and an active member of the community and the Louisiana State Bar, of which he served as President in 1995-96. While pursuing his successful legal career, Judge Zainey has always found both the time and the means to help those in need, and to enlist others in doing the same.

In addition to H.E.L.P., Judge Zainey created SOLACE, a program through which attorneys receive email notifications concerning other attorneys who are in need, allowing them to respond with assistance directly to the people who need it. Along with his wife Joy, Judge Zainey co-founded St. Andrew’s Village, a long-term residential community for adults with developmental disabilities. These are just a few of the many charitable and community service projects in which Judge Zainey is a driving force.

The Needs We Serve

In each city where we work, H.E.L.P. partners with organizations that provide other services to the homeless population. Working with a local shelter, H.E.L.P. establishes a regularly scheduled clinic to offer free legal services to homeless individuals, provided by volunteer attorneys from firms around the city. H.E.L.P. clients often have many of the same types of legal issues that any other individual might encounter, but they lack access to the justice system simply because they have no attorney to advocate for them.

In many cases, the problem that is preventing the individual from applying for a job, seeking benefits to which he or she is entitled, or obtaining housing is something that a lawyer is able to resolve in a matter of hours, or by making a few simple telephone calls. Other cases are more complicated and require follow up representation, but in most instances the individual’s legal problem is resolved, and what had been a major obstacle in their lives is no longer a problem.

In addition to legal representation, H.E.L.P. involves law students, paralegals, and law firm secretaries who volunteer their time, skills, and services to assist the homeless. Law students assist clients in applying for social security or veteran’s benefits by helping them to complete the application forms, obtaining required medical records and other documents, and accompanying clients to the agency office to complete the process. Paralegals and secretaries not only assist the volunteer attorneys, but also provide notary services to certify copies of driver licenses, identification cards, and other important documents.

In cities throughout the country, there are amazing organizations dedicated to helping the homeless every single day. They provide shelter and food, of course, but they also provide so much more: job training and placement services, clothing, counseling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, transportation to work or school, schooling and child care. They provide a lifeline of security in a harsh and often unfriendly world. The individuals who operate these organizations are not just administrators. They are friends, counselors, parents, protectors and encouragers. H.E.L.P. salutes their selfless dedication, and is grateful for their partnership with us. Please select a city to learn more about the service providers with whom we work.

Issues H.E.L.P. Addresses

• Identification documents

HELP began its outreach by helping homeless individuals maintain valid identification documents. Because identification is essential for the homeless to access services like shelters and non-emergency hospital care, this service continues to be an important part of the assistance that H.E.L.P. volunteers provide.

Homeless individuals’ identification documents are often stolen, lost, or taken by the police during an arrest, and many have trouble navigating document replacement processes that can take up to 30 days. Working with H.E.L.P. volunteers speeds up the process dramatically, allowing these individuals to utilize important social services. Certified copies of their identification documents are maintained at the shelter so that if the original is lost, a certified copy is readily available.

• Child Custody Issues

• Child Support Issues

• Creditor/Debtor Law

• Disability Law

• Driver License Suspensions

• Government Benefits

• Immigration Law

• Housing Issues

• Landlord/Tenant Law

• Minor criminal and traffic violations