Klehr Harrison + HAP 20 Years Strong: Helen Lafferty's Story


In a case for the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP), Helen Lafferty is representing a mother of two school-aged children in a pending custody case. Earlier this year, the client lost her home and was forced to move with her children to a Philadelphia homeless shelter. Shortly thereafter, the children’s father filed for full custody of the children and served the client at her previous residence. Because the client no longer lived at the residence, she never received the notice and was therefore unaware of the hearing date. As a result, the father was granted sole legal and primary physical custody of the children and, immediately thereafter, he utilized the custody order to apply to be the recipient of his daughters’ social security disability check. Despite the custody Order,the father never exercised his custody rights or even sought to visit his children, and the daughters remained with their mother at the shelter.

As soon as she received notice of the custody order, the mother filed a Request for Reconsideration pro se, which was denied.  It was at this point that the client sought HAP’s help and was directed to Helen, a HAP volunteer, who filed for a modification of custody and represented the mother at the hearing before the custody Master, and who also filed a petition for special emergency relief.  After the third Master’s hearing, mother received an Order giving her temporary sole legal and primary physical custody of the children. At the next hearing ,   Helen will request that the temporary Order be made final. Helen’s representation has helped to alleviate her client’s stress throughout this tumultuous period of her life. “It was especially gratifying to be able to regain custody of the children for mom given the considerable roadblocks we were faced with due to an inefficient and extremely backlogged court system,” said Helen of her case.

About The Homeless Advocacy Project
The Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) collaborates with shelter providers, homeless advocates, community service providers, and the legal community to provide homeless clients with legal representation and to connect them with other social services. Each year, HAP holds over 100 legal clinics at 25 homeless shelters, transitional housing sites, overnight cafes, and soup kitchens in Philadelphia. Since HAP’s first legal clinic in December 1990, HAP’s 350 volunteers have helped more than 52,000 homeless people and have provided more than $86 million worth of free legal services to homeless clients. To learn more about HAP, please click here.