Inner City Law Center
Inner City Law Center (ICLC) fights for justice for the poorest residents of Los Angeles. The 40-year-old nonprofit law firm provides free legal services ranging from eviction defense to combating slums. ICLC promotes access to decent, safe, and fully habitable housing for homeless and working-poor families and individuals residing in L.A’s inner-city neighborhoods.
Even in the best of times, Inner City Law Center (ICLC) had an arduous calling. Located in L.A.’s Skid Row neighborhood, the 40-year-old nonprofit law firm provides free legal services to the city’s poorest and most vulnerable residents. With services ranging from eviction defense to combating slums, ICLC promotes access to decent, safe and fully habitable housing for homeless and working-poor families and individuals residing in L.A.’s inner-city neighborhoods.
We are built on and remain committed to the idea that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.
– Ian Musa, ICLC Chief Operating Officer
L.A.’s Skid Row neighborhood is a 54-block area east of the downtown financial district. It is an area of congregation for displaced workers and people experiencing homelessness since the 1930. Skid Row neighborhood became a stark illustration of the long-term social havoc wreaked by unemployment, high housing prices, a too-thin social safety net, and insufficient medical and mental healthcare. With thousands of people homeless every night, Skid Row is the greatest concentration of poverty and homelessness in the United States.
ICLC is the only full-time provider of legal services in the neighborhood. Each year its staff of 100, including 50 attorneys, work with a dedicated cohort of over 500 pro bono volunteers to provide essential legal services to more than 6,000 people who have nowhere else to turn.
Adopting for Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic brought new and heightened challenges to the organization. “Overnight, the way we serve clients completely changed,” Musa said. “We had to cultivate a culture in which our staff could stay safe, while still connecting with and serving our clients, many of whom cannot shelter at home because they don’t have a home.”
“We also had to be nimble and consider a whole range of client circumstances,” he continued. “And think about those who don’t have access to a hot spot or can’t just get onto Zoom. But our guiding principle was prioritizing the safety of our employees, figuring out how we could stay healthy and still serve.”
That meant undertaking a wholesale revamping of its technology infrastructure. “Almost immediately, we had to transition from an organization set up for in-person interaction into one that could fully function remotely,” Musa said.
The organization rolled out new, enterprise-level organizational software and had to upgrade their hardware to run the system. Laptops had to be purchased and issued to employees and protocols needed to be set up to assist employees in working remotely. It was a hugely expensive endeavor—and one that they didn’t know would even be needed if the pandemic subsided in a few months. And, most important, they knew the expense had to be borne without sacrificing a single employee. They run a very lean operation and everyone on their staff is essential to performing their mission effectively. Fortunately, they received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from Beneficial State Bank.
“Beneficial State was great for us at a time when we really needed a partner,” said Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Hirsch. “The PPP funding, which was designed to support ongoing payroll costs, enabled us to not only maintain our existing staff but also to add new team members to help those hardest hit by the pandemic avoid the loss of their homes.”
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