When Kathy McGrath, the pro bono manager for Liberty Mutual’s legal department, heard about the Homeless Youth Handbook project, she immediately knew she would easily find willing volunteers. And she soon had 25 people signed up to help make a Massachusetts version of the Homeless Youth Handbook that the Baker McKenzie law firm had spearheaded in 10 places already.
“Liberty has a robust pro bono program,” she said, “and many of our lawyers and paralegals already had experience on key legal issues such as obtaining domestic violence restraining orders, finding housing, and accessing education.”
What subjects the volunteers didn’t already know, they were willing to learn about to make the handbook comprehensive and useful.
Another motivation for Liberty getting involved with the handbook was the valuable organizational support from MA Appleseed. The staff at Appleseed greatly assisted the drafters from Liberty and Boston Scientific by compiling a thorough list of online research sources for Massachusetts law. Then the staff assembled a network of local subject matter experts, who they have been working with to review and edit the drafts volunteers submit to ensure the finalized handbook is thorough and accurate.
Participating in the handbook was a great fit for the Liberty legal department because one of the primary goals of the company’s charitable foundation is addressing homelessness, with a special emphasis on preventing youth homelessness. For example, in 2018, Liberty Mutual funded the purchase of Liberty House, a transitional residence for young people experiencing homelessness managed by Bridge Over Troubled Waters. The staff at Bridge Over Troubled Waters were excited when Attorney McGrath told them about the handbook, seeing it as providing legal information to supplement Bridge’s own app that helps young people experiencing homelessness navigate resources for shelter, meals, mental health, and more. In fact, Bridge agreed that it would have the final draft of the handbook reviewed by teenagers experiencing homelessness to confirm it was written and organized in an understandable way.
“MA Appleseed has done a wonderful job coordinating the handbook project,” McGrath said. “With so many authors collaborating and experts reviewing the handbook sections, something this complex needed the structure that Appleseed provides. I think the handbook is going to be truly useful to homeless young people and the network of providers who guide them.”
“Not only has Liberty consistently been a champion of our most vulnerable youth over the years,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of MA Appleseed, “but we have been amazed by their tireless dedication to this project, especially during such a difficult time. As the world has shut down around us, the Liberty team and all our volunteers continue to write and turn in handbook chapters, which will enable us to get the finished resource into the hands of the young people who need it as soon as possible. We rely on pro bono assistance at MA Appleseed, and partners like Liberty are an extraordinary gift. I couldn’t be more grateful for their hard work and the time and energy they have donated to make this know-your-rights resource a reality.”
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