10 Years Later: Coming Together to Help the Survivors

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, numerous organizations came together to help and support TRLA’s efforts to provide legal assistance to survivors. The following profile highlights the contribution of law school students, the private bar, and out-of-state friends in providing support. It originally appeared in the Winter 2005 edition of the TRLA Times.

In a very small room in the law library of Louisiana State University, law students sit at desks with phones, feverishly answering calls from hurricane survivors. This is the Baton Rouge call center, the product of intense coordination between TRLA staff, Louisiana legal aid providers, and the State Bar of Louisiana. Modeled after TRLA’s Telephone Access to Justice call centers in Austin, Corpus Christi and San Antonio, the Baton Rouge call center answers a staggering 135 calls a day from evacuees needing legal assistance.

“The cumbersome and difficult process of starting a call center was made so much easier through the collaboration of various groups and organizations, in particular the donated use of TRLA’s client tracking system and training assistance,” said Monte Mollere, Access to Justice Director for the New Orleans-based Louisiana State Bar Association.

Luckily TRLA had experience with setting up telephone call centers for clients needing legal aid – and so began a series of trips to Louisiana by TRLA staff. TRLA Weslaco attorney Linley Boone coordinated efforts to set up the call center. TRLA staff Amanda Chisholm (El Paso), Donna Harvey (San Antonio), Kevin McCary (El Paso), Lakshmi Ramakrishnan (Weslaco), and Araceli Vela-Ruiz (San Antonio) made trips to Louisiana to help train legal representatives on how to use the system and solve computer problems.

TRLA’s work to help Katrina evacuees was supported by numerous organizations including:

  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
  • Austin Bar Association
  • Pfizer, Inc.
  • Junior League of Austin
  • Meadows Foundation
  • Rainmaker Media
  • Quik Print
  • Texas Bar Foundation
  • Texas Access to Justice Foundation
  • AARP Foundation
  • Austin Community Foundation
  • Long Foundation
  • Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
  • RGK Foundation
  • Still Water Foundation
  • St. David’s Foundation
  • United Way of the Capital Area

Ten years later, we remain grateful for their support.

Tomorrow on 10 Years Later: TRLA’s Housing team takes notice when evacuees start receiving eviction notices after FEMA decides to  not continue their housing assistance.

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