University of Ottawa team launches mobile social law clinic to reach people at risk of homelessness

The group will focus on law, health, and psychosocial support for marginalized groups

University of Ottawa team launches mobile social law clinic to reach people at risk of homelessness

A social law clinic led by the University of Ottawa’s faculty of law - civil law section, is launching a mobile team to reach those at risk for homelessness outside of downtown Gatineau.

This new project created by the Clinique interdisciplinaire en droit social de l’Outaouais, will  advocate for the individual and collective rights of marginalized groups.

The mobile team’s work will focus on three key areas: law, health, and psychosocial support. University of Ottawa students in law, nursing and social work will lead this initiative, which is meant to grow the clinic’s footprint in western Quebec.

Supported by a fund to provide further access to the law from Quebec’s Ministry of Justice, the mobile team will offer information, legal advice, and support in collaboration with community groups and help people advocate collectively for their rights. This new project stems directly from observations in the field during the first two years of clinic operations indicating that many were not able to travel to downtown services.

As an initial activity, the mobile team will host an event in Gatineau on October 20, to raise awareness of homelessness. 

“The mobile team project is the result of what we’ve seen in the clinic’s activities, showing an increase in the number of people living with homelessness appearing in court and the difficulty in reaching some of them. Collaboration between different organizations will help address this problem,” said Emmanuelle Bernheim, a professor in the civil law Section and a specialist in mental health law and access to justice.

Since fall 2021, the clinic has offered individual support every Wednesday during the academic year to those facing legal issues, at the Soupe populaire de Hull and in downtown Gatineau.  These activities have been carried out by a team of students and legal professionals, with financial support from the uOttawa civil law section, Quebec’s Chambre des notaires and the Law Foundation of Ontario.

The clinic was established in 2020 by a multidisciplinary team of University of Ottawa and Université du Québec en Outaouais professors in response to research showing the increasing involvement in the legal system of those living with mental health issues or homelessness.

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