Law students spearhead ID clinic for low-income Vancouverites

On October 2, UBC law students opened a clinic at the Powell Street Getaway to assist homeless or low-income Vancouverites in applying for ID.

This initiative is undertaken through the UBC chapter of Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) — a law-student run program that provides free legal services to organizations and individuals throughout the country who are in need.

According to Carly Stanhope — one of the two co-projects lead of the Vancouver clinic — this idea came to them at a national training conference for PBSC, where Stanhope and her colleagues became aware of a project of this structure being undertaken in Toronto.

It was this project that inspired them to come up with the concept of an ID clinic.

“... we just kind of translated it to Vancouver where we saw the need was really great and just doing community work, having experienced situations where clients were stopped from receiving services because they had no ID,” she said, “so we yeah wanted to make the program here.”

Stanhope believes that the clinic helps create the opportunity to eliminate systemic barriers to obtaining ID.

“We just opened last week with our very first clinic date, but something that we all really were taken aback by was a client that said to us, ‘when I had my ID, I felt like a real human being and I need that back,’” she said.

“So just knowing that we’re really helping people restore their personhood is really rewarding.”

Currently, four law student volunteers and two supervising lawyers from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP are helping to run these weekly clinics. Stanhope and her colleagues are also considering a possible expansion of the clinic due to high demand.

The volunteers were able to serve 30 clients on the first night, but there were also more clients waiting in line.

A challenge that Stanhope and her colleagues face in terms of the clinic is the issue of funding. They have managed to get a grant this year from Vancity, but they are “definitely going to need more to sustain the clinic.”

Stanhope and her colleagues are currently working on some fundraising in collaboration with other groups from the Allard School of Law. They aim to focus on funding before considering an expansion of the clinic.

A long-term goal that Stanhope and her colleagues hope to pursue is being able to create an environment where people feel “respected and heard in the pursuit of applying for ID.”

“It’s just really important to us that our clients feel like they matter,” she said.