"In these times of uncertainty and unrest, the commitment, cooperation, respect, graciousness, and generosity of spirit of Volunteers of Legal Service create an energy so important to our world... My words could never express the gratitude for Volunteers of Legal Service I hold in my heart."
- Sister Margaret Rose Moran of Encore Community Services, a VOLS Elderly Project clinic site since 2003
The Elderly Project staff and pro bono attorneys provide free legal advice, information, document drafting, and other brief services to low-income Manhattan residents aged 60 and over, and to the social workers and advocates who assist them. These services include direct counseling on critical issues involving housing, government benefits, and consumer debt, and the drafting and execution of wills, powers of attorney, and other essential life-planning documents. The Elderly Project emphasizes outreach to underserved populations with the goal of helping vulnerable seniors stay in their homes.
A key aspect of our success is our ability to combine social work resources already available to seniors with pro bono legal services. Currently, we work closely with 14 senior centers, share information and communicate regularly by e-mail with over 600 social workers and other advocates in the elder services community, and have a roster of over 150 volunteer lawyers from some of New York City’s best law firms.
We offer all of our prospective volunteers a thorough, two-hour training, and a practical, soup-to-nuts manual on the drafting and execution of life-planning documents for low-income seniors. We then carefully screen and assess the cases of seniors with life-planning needs, and refer appropriate matters to our volunteers. Our clients are usually referred to us by a social worker, and many have the additional support of other on-site staff at senior housing developments and senior centers or long-term care agency personnel.
An 86-Year-Old Woman Gains Peace of Mind
An 86-year-old homebound woman with no immediate family wanted to ensure that her wishes for cremation would be honored, that her possessions would be distributed to friends and charities, and that someone would take care of her pet after she died. A VOLS volunteer attorney visited her in her home for an extensive initial client interview, drafted the legal documents requested by the client and then returned to the client’s home with witnesses and a notary public to carry out the formal signing of the documents. Now she can rest assured that her wishes will be respected.