Making the Link Between Legal and Life Issues: VLSP Social Service Volunteers
Thursday, October 02, 2003
- Organization: VLSP
Tom Hagan: VLSP Volunteer of the Month
Some people find their calling early in life and never look back. That's how it was for Tom Hagan, Director of the Treatment Access Program for the Department of Public Health. Beginning in college, Tom's interests gravitated toward the public sector. He has now been working in public health for more than twenty-five years, with over ten of those years at the Treatment Access Program. So, what did Tom decide to do with his free time? Volunteer at VLSP's Legal Advice and Referral Clinic, of course!
Tom Hagan, VLSP Volunteer of the Month
The Legal Advice and Referral Clinic (LARC) takes place on the first Saturday of every month at the San Francisco Public Library. Each month, between seventy and one hundred low-income people flock to LARC seeking help with their legal problems. Volunteer attorneys assist clients with a wide range of legal issues, from family law to consumer law and immigration law. Every LARC client has the opportunity to meet with a volunteer attorney for a free, ten-minute consultation about his or her case. Many clients also receive referrals to the San Francisco Bar Association's Lawyer Referral and Information Service, or other local legal services providers where they can obtain further assistance.
As a social services volunteer at LARC, Tom's role is to ensure that clients' non-legal problems are also addressed. Many clients arrive with additional concerns about housing, domestic violence, mental health treatment or other social services needs that a volunteer attorney may not be able to help with. Tom interviews and assists those who are in crisis, provides clients with information and makes referrals to other agencies who can help with their non-legal issues. This holistic approach means that all the needs of each client are addressed simultaneously, helping them not only to resolve their legal problems, but also to make a real change in their lives.
While Tom didn't stray far from his career interests in choosing his volunteer work, he does enjoy the change of pace from his day-to-day routine. "As director of the Treatment Access Program, I work primarily in an administrative role. LARC gives me a chance to work directly with clients, which I enjoy. Each month, there are a couple of people who are struggling with mental illness. It is gratifying to be able to redirect them to where they need to go. Many clients just need to talk and feel a sense of support."
Tom's compassion and dedication to the clients comes through in his service record at LARC, where he has been a reliable volunteer for over a year. ""Tom is very helpful with the clients, and I can always count on him to be there!" raves Sabrina Chiu, a VLSP client advocate and LARC coordinator. The appreciation is mutual; "LARC is a great service," Tom says, "It is well-used, and it is important that it is available. I am glad to be a part of it."
To learn more about VLSP's Legal Advice and Referral Clinic, please contact Amanda Chavez at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 782-8956.