Temple, Red Cross offer disaster victims legal advice

January 26, 2013 9:12:34 PM PST
The Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania is the only one in the country with a house where victims of disasters like fires can stay and receive counseling and other services.

However when it came to legal help, their hands were tied.

"We never knew how to address it because we didn't have the infrastructure," said Chad Dion Lassiter, Red Cross.

Now Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross CEO Renee Cardwell Hughes is collaborating with Temple Law and two top law firms - Blank Rome and Stradley Ronon.

"We could help law students so we could groom better lawyers and we could help our families," said Hughes.

The program just began last week and already victims of the November fire at the Foxcroft Terrace Apartments in Darby are benefitting from it.

"We have a list of families that didn't receive security deposits back and everything was stolen because the landlord didn't board up the property," said Hughes.

Temple Law Professor Jennifer Bretschneider's students first have an initial consult with the victims.

"Surrounding landlord tenant issues public benefits, estate planning what would happen to kids and end of life decisions," said Bretschneider.

Next students see what legal services victims need and if they can provide them.

If they can't, they find a pro-bono organization that can. All of this is done under the watchful eye of attorney's like Blank Rome partner Daniel Rhynhart.

"We may work collaboratively with those pro-bono organizations or we may be able to provide lawyers from our firm pro-bono," said Rhynhart.

Temple Law students are getting credit for this and will be at the Red Cross House, located at 4000 Powelton Avenue in West Philadelphia, every Saturday until the end of their semester in April.