Youth homelessness in Philadelphia is on the rise. While social service providers are working to address these young people’s acute and complex needs, many lack the capacity and expertise to assist youth with outstanding civil legal issues that can present barriers to long-term stability. Too often these youth are left to navigate complex legal bureaucracies without support, and their legal matters—such as custody disputes, record expungement, and access to critical public benefits—go unaddressed.
Through her Emerging Leader Fellowship, Kee Tobar worked with Community Legal Services’ Youth Justice Project team and with homeless service providers across Philadelphia to meet the legal needs of these young people—recognizing that they face unique challenges, such as high levels of system involvement, unstable living situations, and adolescent-specific developmental needs.
This Emerging Leader Fellowship enabled Kee to:
- Conduct research, outreach, and coalition-building with Youth Justice Project partners, legal advocates, service providers, and youth to inform best practices and identify policy and practice gaps.
- Provide direct legal representation for youth navigating civil legal challenges.
- Develop and disseminate a best practice guide and toolkit for representing homeless youth in civil legal matters and work with stakeholders to identify broader recommendations for systemic reform.
This project builds on the work of past Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow Claire Grandison, who co-founded the Youth Justice Project to address the lack of holistic legal representation for transition-age youth in Philadelphia.