I am proud to announce the launch of a non-profit tentatively named 'Caravan of Hope' - a mobile RV that will take the work that Philly Gay Lawyer does in Philadelphia on the road (literally) to help predominantly LGBTQ people of color and transgender people in marginalized and rural areas; a pro bono law firm on wheels!
This announcement comes 3 weeks earlier than anticipated due to yet another civil rights roll back; Trump's reversal of federal guidance that directed public schools to allow students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that corresponded to their gender identity. A move which will damage and endanger the lives of transgender youth across the country. I couldn't let today go by without giving people a little ray of hope that we can and are doing something to help those most affected survive this administration.
Since Nov. 9th, the most vulnerable of Americans have been exposed to harassment, intimidation, hate crimes and that's just at the hands of American citizens. It is an intimidation of the greatest magnitude when the White House endorses ideals and a platform that directly contradicts your very being. The White House and its agencies, once seen as a beacon of hope for equality and human rights, has only eviscerated the Constitution since January 20th and while everyone needs to keep fighting, we must also reach out to those who may be feeling like hope is non-existent.
I love Philadelphia. We are a pioneering city that has proactively protected its LGBTQ citizens long before it was trendy. But we live in a bubble. We have the privilege of expressing our outrage, we get to protest with signs proclaiming our sexual orientation and gender identities, but for every person at a protest in an urban city, there are 5 people in a rural area losing hope.
LGBTQ people’s identities, ethnicity and race, among other factors, play a significant role in how they navigate community spaces because of inherent racism and not fitting into the “traditional moral standards” associated with rural life. To that end, rural environments tend to lack resources for LGBTQ people of color and transgender people and therefore foster a sense of isolation.
The Caravan of Hope hopes to change that - pun intended. We will launch the Summer of 2017 and will bring legal services directly to those most in need. We will pick 3 towns and will visit those areas 3 times over the course of the summer so that by the third and final visit, people will have obtained tangible and impactful services that will make a difference in their life; anything from immigration assistance, a divorce, name and gender marker change, adoption petition or an estate plan. The idea is to provide more substantive legal services than one would get at a workshop; to truly serve as a mobile law firm.
Special care will be taken to ensure that the outreach is carried out strategically and covertly, if necessary, to maintain people's safety and confidentiality after the Caravan of Hope pulls away.
There are a handful of "law firms on wheels" around the country focusing solely on immigration needs and after speaking with the Executive Directors of 3 of them, I approximate the cost of replicating the concept in Philadelphia to be $50,000. To keep costs down, I hope to meet someone who owns an RV dealership (hint hint!) that will work with us and a branding company that will wrap the RV at a reduced rate. There will be construction costs to gut the RV and turn it into an "office" with a client meeting space and we'll need office supplies like laptops etc.
RV there yet??! No, but every dollar donated will go towards these expenses and we will keep you updated on the progress made over the next few weeks.