CLP Wins Prestigious 2022 Goldstein-Van Nortwick Award for Excellence!

On June 23, 2022, at the Florida Bar Annual Convention in Orlando, the Community Law Program, in collaboration with Bay Area Legal Services, was awarded the prestigious Florida Bar Foundation’s 2022 Goldstein-Van Nortwick Award for Excellence. This was in recognition of CLP’s Pinellas Eviction Diversion Program. It is one of the most coveted and respected awards in the non-profit legal services realm and is considered by some to be the “Oscar of Legal Aid”. The award was accepted by CLP’s Executive Director, Kimberly Rodgers. Though many large non-profits were in the running for the award, CLP, one of the smallest, won the award in collaboration with Bay Area Legal Services (BALS).

In case you are not familiar with the Goldstein-Van Nortwick Award for Excellence, every two years, a project of “significant impact work” that is undertaken by a Foundation grantee is selected for the honor. Eligible projects must affect a substantial number of poor persons, address an important poverty-law issue, involve a significant commitment of grantee program resources and staff, and reflect legal which is of a high professional level.

The Goldstein–Van Nortwick Award for Excellence was originally called the Steven M. Goldstein Award for Excellence and was created to honor the memory of the former legal services attorney and profession of law at FSU College of Law, Steven M. Goldstein, an advocate of legal rights of the poor and disadvantaged and who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1995. Twenty years later, the Medal of Honor was awarded to former Florida Bar Foundation President William A. Van Nortwick for his decades of leadership involving pro bono legal services. Both men were friends and knew each other for years. In 2019 the award was renamed to be the Goldstein-Van Nortwick Award for Excellence. Learn more about it at https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/what-we-do/award-programs/goldstein-award-recipients/

CLP’s Pinellas Eviction Diversion Program set hefty project goals to expand access to free legal services for tenants impacted by COVID-19 who were at risk of eviction, and to prevent homelessness for Pinellas County tenants impacted by COVID-19. In addition, the PEDP was designed from a racial equity lens focused on reaching and expanding justice to persons of color who are disproportionately impacted by eviction. Multiple strategies were deployed, including using a targeted and aggressive outreach campaign both via social media and on the ground, including knocking on doors in the community to increase project awareness.  PEDP partnered with two grassroots non-profit organizations, Community Development and Training Center (CDAT) and DAB Community Services, both of whom led the outreach efforts.   PEDP also partnered with the Homeless Leadership Alliance of Pinellas, Inc. to provide housing navigation to tenant households whose landlords would not agree to let them remain in their current rentals.

These strategies paid off. As of December 31, 2021, CLP and BALS together served 1,009 tenant households (comprising a total of 1,825 individuals) with 72% of them receiving extended services. This resulted in them getting their past due rent paid up and/or remaining stably housed or gaining additional time to find alternate housing. Formal mediation and informal negotiations both pre-suit and post-suit, helped tenants access $3,823,899.43 in rental assistance dollars. 56% of the households helped were comprised of persons of color compared to just 34% on average of tenants that were served three years pre-pandemic.

In 2022, CLP is continuing to be a driving force of positive impact in the community, through programs like the Pinellas Eviction Diversion Program, much due to the efforts and leadership of Executive Director, Kimberly Rodgers. She’s extremely humble, but we must mention that her leadership, long-term tenacity, and super-hero-like drive have led to many accomplishments for CLP. This award is just one of them. She is recently featured on the St. Pete. Catalyst website as a Community Leader, in an article called Community Voices: The “Oscar of Legal Aid” by Jovita Kravitz. View it at: https://stpetecatalyst.com/community-voices-the-oscar-of-legal-aid/

If you’d like to learn more about Community Law Program or how you can help or volunteer, please visit: www.lawprogram.org

To learn more about the PEDP, please visit www.pinellasevictiondiversion.org

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