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Southern University Law Center, DCFS enter poverty innovation project

During its February meeting, the Southern University Board of Supervisors approved a partnership with the Southern University Law Center (SULC) and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The innovative collaboration will provide guidance and direction for policies that can impact those living in poverty in Louisiana.

"The Law Center has committed itself to provide legal services to its surrounding community and citizens of Louisiana," said John Pierre, chancellor of the Southern University Law Center. "This initiative will ensure that we can offer critical services to those impacted by poverty in our state."

"We are delighted about this new partnership with Southern University Law Center," said Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. "So much of our work and discussion underway to address poverty deals with legal impediments to success. This partnership will give us greater access to the research and ideas we need to advance solutions. We're excited to see what will develop."

The funding provided by DCFS will allow SULC to create the Vulnerable Communities & Peoples Initiative (VCPI). The term "vulnerable communities" and "vulnerable people" refers to children, adults, and families who are typically economically disadvantaged in society and who because of either age (infancy, children, seniors), disability, or other circumstance (loss of employment, victim of disaster, homelessness, etc.) may have a need for services to stabilize their family.

The VPCI will be led by attorney Alfreda Tillman Bester, who will serve as Special Counsel for Human Services at SULC. Bester previously served as DCFS Assistant Secretary for Family Support. The center will be initially funded by federal funding through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The Law Center houses several legal clinics, projects, and programs that provide services to children and families that currently meet TANF's guidelines.

The center will work to create a menu of research services and innovative practices to transform the lives of those impacted. Initial projects for the VCPI may include earned income tax credit assistance, expungement assistance, access to employment and entrepreneurial development, low-income housing assistance, and more.

For more information on this project, contact SULC director of external affairs, Jasmine Hunter, at 225-771-5815 or jhunter@sulc.edu, or Catherine S. Heitman at Catherine.Heitman.DCFS@la.gov.