With such a strong history of public service, it is no surprise that Drake Law School students regularly participate in the local Stand Down event held annually for homeless or near homeless veterans.
Stand Downs are one part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to provide services to homeless veterans. Services to homeless Veterans include food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, Veterans Affairs (VA) and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment, substance abuse treatment, and legal services. Stand Downs are collaborative events, coordinated between local VA offices, other government agencies, and community agencies who serve the homeless.
Along with the Drake Legal Clinic, volunteers from the U.S. Probation Office and the U.S. Clerk of Court offer clients the chance to have a court record check run for free - no cost, no obligation, and no penalty if a warrant is pending.
Clients are interviewed by law students, and then referred to a volunteer lawyer, clinic program, or appropriate program, such as the County Attorney's traffic fine repayment plan (that allows for driver's license reinstatement). The computer check also frequently turns up funds that the client may be entitled to that are held by the Iowa Secretary of State, so the claim form is printed, and submitted with a current address.
The Drake Law School Legal Clinic, Public Service Scholars, and the Drake Military Law Association students have participated in the Stand Down operation in Des Moines for several years.
“Those who participated said it was a great opportunity to enhance client interview skills,” says Eric Green, president of the Military Law Students Association. “Many observed that the vets wanted someone to listen to them, whether we could help with their problems or not. It was a rewarding experience that left most of us asking why we do not reach out like this more often.
Areas of law covered include family law, tax, administrative law, landlord tenant, veteran benefits, wills, and criminal cases including traffic.
"I think it is valuable for law students to see how much help people need, and how much we, as lawyers, can help. Lawyers and law students have the privilege of representing the justice system, and helping the public understand their options,” says Judge Celeste Bremer, who has volunteered at Stand Down for about ten years. “Making justice more accessible to a vulnerable population is part of our obligation of professionalism. I appreciate the help from the Drake Legal Clinic in putting a face on Justice."
More information regarding Stand Down can be found on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.