The Capital Area AIDS Legal Project has been helping Central Texans affected by HIV and AIDS with legal issues for over 25 years. Through a longstanding partnership with Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas (VLS), CAALP attorneys who also work for VLS help people with HIV living in Travis county access civil legal services at no charge. It takes a team of three VLS attorneys and two VLS staff members working alongside ASA staff to refer clients from ASA and the community to their volunteer attorney network to address their legal needs. Because of this great partnership, CAALP has been able to help hundreds of people over the years with a broad range of civil legal issues, such as life planning, insurance, discrimination, confidentiality, immigration, public benefits, landlord-tenant disputes, probate and family law.
We recently spoke with CAALP Board Member and Volunteer Attorney Jodi Cole. “I love everyone at ASA and CAALP,” she explained. “Working with them is very stabilizing and gratifying. No matter how hectic my week was, it’s very calming to work on CAALP cases. I think CAALP serves not just ASA clients but enriches the lives of the attorneys that volunteer.” Read more about why Jodi loves practicing law in Austin and working with CAALP.
Last year, CAALP attorneys saw 181 clients, and closed 131 cases total.
Many of CAALP’s clients are from disenfranchised and minority communities and have few resources to lean on. Last year, CAALP was able to help ASA client Kelly, who also volunteers regularly in our Food Bank. As Kelly encountered some hard times, he made the decision to focus on his health and stay on his medications, but fell behind on rent. In October, he found a handwritten eviction notice on his door. “It seemed shady,” he said, so he reached out to his social worker, who referred him to CAALP for legal counsel. Armed with the advice from his lawyer (who agreed the note wasn’t appropriate), Kelly was able to stay in his apartment.
Over the years, the cases tackled by CAALP have changed. “It’s actually really cool that we are now getting older people seeking help with wills and not seeing so many young people dying from HIV.” Jodi remembers that not even two decades ago, HIV was nearly a death sentence. With the introduction of protease inhibitors, people are now able to live longer, fuller lives.
However, as long as people stigmatize HIV and those living with HIV, issues with housing, benefits, and employment will always remain a constant. “It [is] fear that [causes] people to attack already vulnerable parts of society,” Jodi explains.
You can support CAALP and people living with HIV in Central Texas through Viva RED 2015: la Vie en Rose. Enjoy live music, delicious bits from Austin’s top restaurants, faux gaming tables, and a stunning silent auction! Get your tickets today!