Looking for the Silver Lining: Meet “The Disasters”
It has been seven weeks since the Texas Gulf Coast
experienced Harvey. In those seven weeks, the U.S. also met Irma, Maria and a
fiery friend without a name. It has certainly been “Disaster Season” in the
United States – one that has left very few communities unscathed.
Immediately after Harvey hit, and the devastation became
known, a group of Pro Bono Counsel from several firms all over the country came
together to form a Disaster Relief Task Force. Those outside of the disaster
zone were able to provide support for those of us on the ground in Houston –
trying to provide as much legal assistance to those displaced from the storm as
humanly possible. (Read more about post-Harvey
pro bono legal aid.)
Before we were even able to complete the work we were all
doing for Houston and its surrounding areas, Irma reared its ugly head in
Florida. We added pro bono counsel at firms resident in Florida, as well as
other pro bono counsel outside of Florida, and now we had a two disaster team.
We shared what we had learned from experts from legal aid programs all over the
country about federal programs like FEMA and DSNAP (food stamps), as well as
tips and trainings for lawyers who were helping on the ground in Florida. The
information relay was quick and organized, given we had JUST deployed these
tactics in Houston.
Our group of pro bono counsel, which we now affectionately
call “The Disasters” was not yet complete. Before too long, we had two new
disasters to add to our response team – Maria and the California fires. Those
suffering in Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, and Northern California
were going to need similar assistance and information, as well as lawyers and
experts on the ground to help those affected. We knew how to do it, and we got
started. We engaged the providers and the local law firm lawyers, and
Incredible work is happening, as you read this, in all of
the areas affected, and behind the scenes from afar – creating projects,
gathering information, doing research, and preparing the lawyers on the ground
as best we can.
This is where the title of this blog post comes from. This
group of Pro Bono Counsel from firms all over the country worked together with
incredible legal services organizations to quickly and efficiently and
compassionately provide a tremendous amount of legal services and comfort to
those who were suffering – isn’t that what it is all about?