Each year, the Boston Bar Foundation distributes over $1 million in grants to legal services organizations in the Greater Boston area that serve the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our community, including domestic violence survivors, immigrants, prisoners, workers, veterans, children and families and transgender and non-binary individuals. These legal services providers help people of extremely limited means with matters concerning civil rights, housing and homelessness, public education, public benefits, risks faced by incarcerated populations, citizenship, and other challenges for low-income litigants navigating the courts.
2021-2022 Grantee Organizations
For the 2021-2022 year, the BBF awarded funding to 26 organizations totaling $1,200,000.
Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston
Supporting artists and art organizations with equal access to legal resources
Casa Myrna Vazquez
Offering shelter and supportive services to survivors as Boston’s largest provider of domestic violence awareness efforts
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Providing quality advocacy and legal services to low-income children and youth
City Life/Vida Urbana
Fighting for racial, social and economic justice and gender equality by building working class power
Working to combat the effects of poverty and violence and help ensure safety, income, health and housing for clients and their children.
Promoting hope, healing, safety, and social change by providing a broad range of services for domestic violence survivors
Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS)
Providing free legal services to low-income families as New England’s oldest and largest provider
Promoting long-term stability for people affected by violence and abuse through free safety and support services, housing and economic opportunities
Lawyers Clearinghouse on Affordable Housing and Homelessness
Providing pro bono legal services to nonprofit organizations and to individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
Lawyers for Civil Rights
Fostering equal opportunity and fighting discrimination on behalf of people of color and immigrants
Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Removing barriers to educational and life opportunities for children and youth
Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law & Justice
Promoting equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Advocating for the advancement of laws, policies, and practices that secure economic, racial, and social justice for low-income people and communities
MetroWest Legal Services
Protecting and advancing the rights of the poor, elderly, disabled and other disenfranchised people and to assist them in obtaining legal, social and economic justice
Northeast Legal Aid
Delivering civil legal services to the poor and elderly in Northeastern Massachusetts
Pine Street Inn
Working to remove barriers to housing for homeless individuals
Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR)
Promoting the rights of unjustly detained immigrants to secure safety and freedom for asylum-seekers fleeing persecution
Prisoners’ Legal Services
Promoting the safe, humane and lawful treatment of Massachusetts prisoners through civil rights litigation advocacy, counseling and public outreach
Partnering with community-based organizations to help eligible, legal permanent residents overcome barriers to becoming U.S. citizens
Rian Immigrant Center
Welcoming and supporting immigrants and refugees from around the world, empowering newcomers with critical integration services
The Second Step
Providing comprehensive and transformational services to survivors of domestic violence and abuse in the Greater Boston Area
Veterans Legal Services
Promoting self-sufficiency, stability, and financial security for veterans in Massachusetts through comprehensive and accessible legal services
Volunteer Lawyers Project
Providing free civil legal assistance to low-income residents of Greater Boston through the pro bono services of private attorneys.
Women’s Lunch Place
Offering a safe, welcoming day shelter community, providing nutritious food and individualized services for women experiencing poverty or homelessness
Women’s Bar Foundation – The Family Law Project for Domestic Abuse Survivors
Empowering domestic violence survivors by giving them a voice in their abuse prevention hearings and family law cases
Youth Advocacy Foundation
Providing education advocacy for Massachusetts’ highest-risk youth, the YAF is the non-profit arm of the Youth Advocacy Division of the Committee for Public Counsel services
2021 Grantee Stories
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Rosa was born in a Central American country where she lived with her parents and younger brother. Rosa and her family are members of an indigenous group. Her family lived in a rural area of the country. The home had no heat, no running water, and no reliable electricity. Rosa’s mother worked in the fields growing potatoes, but often did not earn enough to support her children. Rosa frequently lacked food, adequate clothing, and access to medical and dental care. She had access to only one or two meals a day. Her family could afford to buy meat only twice a month, and could rarely afford vegetables or fruit.
Rosa worked in the fields to help her mother support the family from a young age. Her father worked only sporadically due to his heavy drinking. He would drink and leave the home for days at a time, and upon returning would become abusive towards the mother and children. Rosa’s five older siblings all married or moved out due to the father’s abuse.
In addition, Rosa’s father discouraged her older sisters to continue their education past elementary school because he did not believe it was necessary for them to attend. When Rosa’s mother allowed Ana to continue in school past the sixth grade, her father became angry and beat Rosa and her mother. At times the abuse was so extensive that Rosa and her mother chose to sleep outside in the fields in order to get away from him. As time went on, the abuse continued, and Rosa’s mother struggled to find enough work to support the family.
When she was fourteen years old, Rosa made the decision to leave her homeland in order to seek protection in the United States. She arranged to leave without telling her parents. Rosa traveled unaccompanied until reaching the border of the United States. She then travelled to Lowell, Massachusetts, where older relatives live.
Rosa was referred to the Children’s Law Center by the Lowell Juvenile Court. Her attorney from the Children’s Law Center devoted numerous hours to secure her resident legal status. Eventually, she was designated as a Special Immigrant Juvenile and her application for permanent residence was approved, a development that will allow Rosa to be able to continue to live in the US free of the threat of removal, while she continues to make progress towards completing her education and career goals.
DOVE’s client, “Marta,” is facing eviction for nonpayment of her rent after facing severe domestic violence that left her with injuries that prevented her from working. DOVE has worked closely with Marta to maintain her current housing during the eviction court process and to assist her with longer-term housing and economic stability. DOVE worked with Quincy Community Action Programs to ensure that her RAFT application was filed to help her pay back rent and also provided flex funding to help her with her rent payment. DOVE also advocated for Marta to be placed on the “DV priority” list of local housing authorities. Because Marta’s housing stability is so dependent upon her receipt of child support, DOVE’s family law attorneys also represented Marta in her child support case in family court. DOVE argued that child support should be higher than the Child Support Guidelines because Marta’s former partner was underemployed. The judge agreed, and ordered an upward deviation in child support at the temporary orders hearing. DOVE also represented Marta in a conciliation to settle the child support litigation and has reached a favorable settlement for Marta that will make the upward deviation in support a final judgment, which will help her achieve longer term economic stability.
Greater Boston Legal Services
“Joao” is an immigrant from Brazil who has been a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) client of the GBLS Immigration Unit for many years. During the grant year, unit attorneys were able to serve Joao by utilizing the comprehensive legal services offered by GBLS. Joao lost his job due to the COVID pandemic, collected unemployment, and then received notice that he was being charged several thousands of dollars in unemployment arrears. In a panic, he contacted the Immigration Unit. The unit was able to coordinate with the GBLS Employment Law Unit’s unemployment experts to rectify what turned out to be erroneous charges. Joao was extremely grateful. In the course of conversation, the unit also learned that Joao’s father, who resides in Canada, is extremely ill. Joao’s advocate initiated the “advanced parole” process that would allow Joao’s father to enter the United States so that Joao can care for him as he undergoes medical treatment.
Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Eduardo is a 12-year-old Latino student with autism in the sixth grade. Prior to the pandemic, with the Autism Center’s assistance, he had been thriving in an inclusion setting, with the support of services and supports such as an aide. Last spring, when schools closed due to COVID-19, Eduardo’s entire routine was upended. For weeks, he woke up each morning and said to his mother, “Go to school?” He did not grasp the concept of “going to school” remotely through a computer screen. His mother bought him a new desk and a new computer with a large screen hoping he’d be able to learn remotely. Yet Eduardo had difficulty accessing remote instruction due to his disability. Rather than providing appropriate accommodations, services, and supports to Eduardo, the school district filed a report of abuse or neglect with the state’s child welfare department (“DCF”) because Eduardo was not logging on to remote learning every day. MAC’s lawyer successfully advocated for DCF to issue a finding that the allegation of neglect was “unsupported” because his “absences” from remote learning were due to barriers related to his disability. As a result of MAC’s advocacy, DCF closed the case and did not report the parent’s name in a DCF database searchable by employers and outside parties. MAC’s attorney also advocated successfully for the school district to provide in-person services for Eduardo so he could access his education.
Metro West Legal Services
When she was ten (10) years old, Fabiana first came from her native Angola to live in Massachusetts with her U.S. citizen father. She didn’t know her father, but her family thought it best that she take advantage of Father’s offer to petition Fabiana to immigrate to the United States. However, once Fabiana arrived in the US as a Legal Permanent Resident, Father and his wife became verbally and physically abusive towards her. Fabiana disclosed the abuse to her teacher. When DCF began to investigate Father and step-mother, Father drove Fabiana to Logan Airport and put her on a plane back to Angola. As a result, Fabiana lost her LPR status.
In 2018, when she was 19 years old, after many years, Father reconnected with Fabiana and invited her to come to the United States again. Fabiana was suspicious of Father, but accepted his offer as she believed she was older and more prepared to handle his abusive behavior. She traveled to the United States on a Tourist Visa and began living with Father and step-mother. Once again, Father became abusive towards Fabiana and, after about a year, she fled Father’s household. She obtained a 209A Order against Father and began living in the Voices Against Violence domestic violence shelter in Framingham. VAV referred Fabiana to MWLS.
At the initial legal consultation, Attorney Ollington identified that Fabiana was eligible to selfpetition for Legal Permanent Resident status under VAWA as the child of an abusive US citizen. However, because Fabiana was about to turn twenty-one (21) years old, she would age out from being eligible for this benefit in less than one (1) month. Attorney Ollington immediately prioritized Fabiana’s matter and began working to prepare Fabiana’s VAWA self-petition. The self-petition process requires, in part, a detailed affidavit of the abuse and documents showing that the child and US citizen parent shared a joint residence. It was particularly challenging to obtain documents showing joint residence as Fabiana had fled Father’s home and it was not safe for her to return there. In addition, she had not established a strong paper trail at Father’s home in the relatively short time she had resided there upon arrival from Angola. Attorney Ollington worked closely with Fabiana and her VAV advocate to find secondary evidence of her joint residence, such as medical records, public records for Father, and affidavits from her close contacts in the United States. Attorney Ollington successfully submitted Fabiana’s VAWA selfpetition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration just a few days before her 21st birthday.
Soon afterwards, USCIS issued Fabiana a work permit because she had a pending application for adjustment of status. Fabiana’s mental health improved significantly when she received the work permit as she had a sense of hope and was able to earn her own income. Within a few months, she was able to move out of the VAV shelter and live independently. In the spring of 2021, USCIS approved Fabiana’s application for adjustment of status based on the VAWA selfpetition. Once again, she is a Legal Permanent Resident and plans to become a US citizen when she becomes eligible in five (5) years. Fabiana is working hard to support herself and her mother in Angola, as she works as a waitress and receptionist. Fabiana hopes to become a professional Portuguese interpreter and continues to study to improve her English language skills. Once pandemic conditions improve, she looks forward to visiting her Mother in Angola.
Pine Street Inn
Homeless Court has a transformative, long-lasting effect on individual lives. During the pandemic, many of our program staff have observed that former clients turned back to Pine Street for help as they faced COVID-19-related challenges. In this context, we are pleased to offer the following update on our client, Carl.
Carl had an open warrant for a small theft, and was seen in Homeless Court in 2017. While Judge Coffey was able to remove his open warrant, it came to light that he still owed a fee of $250. While Judge Coffey can remove many fees, this was one that she could not, and the unpaid fee meant the case could not be fully dismissed.
Because Homeless Court is a public proceeding, in normal times we welcome visitors to the courtroom. On that day, there was an individual donor to Pine Street in the audience, who was deeply moved by Carl’s story. He raised his hand and asked if he could pay this fee. Judge Coffey accepted this astonishing and compassionate gesture, and the case was dismissed.
Today Carl is housed and working. At the height of the pandemic, the restaurant he was employed in closed. He decided to give back by returning to Pine Street to help keep our kitchen running when many of our staff and trainees were sick with COVID-19 or isolating. During that time, our kitchen did not miss serving a single meal. Carl is now back working in a local restaurant, and we are so grateful to him for helping Pine Street during our most challenging time.
Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts
Mr. “Smith” is a 56 year old African American man who was serving a natural life sentence. He became quadriplegic during the crime for which he was incarcerated. During his decades of incarceration, his physical condition sharply declined due to lack of care such that he was totally bedridden and suffers from contractures so severe that staff are unable to move his body into a sitting position. He was repeatedly punished for behaviors stemming from his TBI and denied care as a result. He was emaciated and malnourished. PLS filed suit in 2015 in Federal Court, and in 2016 won a preliminary injunction against the DOC and their medical provider. In August2019, after trial, the Court issued a final judgment for the Plaintiff declaring that DOC had violated his right to adequate medical care and ordered that DOC transfer him to a non-DOC facility capable of caring for his significant medical needs. In early 2020, DOC finally granted Mr. Smith medical parole (which PLS had petitioned for immediately after the medical parole law passed in 2018), clearing the way for his transfer to a placement in a facility. On August 5th, after years of ongoing advocacy efforts and court actions, Mr. Smith was finally transferred to a care facility in Holyoke.
Women’s Bar Foundation of Massachusetts
Our client Ling is married; she and her husband share two children, ages 6 and 9. Ling’s husband has been abusive to both Ling and the children, threatening to have her deported because she is undocumented. One day, Ling’s husband pulled a knife on her and told her he would stab her if she did not get a start contributing financially to the household. The children witnessed the event. Ling called the police, but because she does not speak English, the officers only spoke to her husband. He told the officers Ling was “acting crazy” because she drank a whole bottle of vodka.
Fortunately, Ling was referred to the WBF by one of our community partners. Her WBF volunteer attorney successfully represented Ling in are straining order hearing. Two days after the restraining order was entered, Ling’s husband hired an attorney who filed two modifications to the restraining order, asking for a stay away order to be entered against Ling, and threatened to sell the marital home. Once again, Ling’s WBF attorney represented her at the hearing on the two modifications and was able to prevent any changes to the restraining order.
Ling is currently safe with her children. Her story has not ended, however. She is in the process of securing WBF representation for her continuing family law case. She continues to work with the community program that referred her to get emotional and financial support for herself and children. Every day, survivors like Ling face an overwhelming and complex legal system. The Boston Bar Foundation’s support ensures that women like Ling get the legal assistance they need.
Youth Advocacy Foundation
Jalen became a client of the EdLaw Project when although he was in 11th grade, he was only able to read at an early elementary school level. Jalen is an excellent basketball player and although he was excelling on the court, he was struggling in the classroom. His family had him evaluated by a reading specialist who identified that he had a learning disability that had gone undetected by his school district for many years. Together, EdLaw and an attorney from EdLaw’s pro bono panel advocated on Jalen’s behalf. EdLaw was able to secure a placement for him at a private school that specializes in teaching students with specific learning disabilities and specialized tutoring. While his public school district was still only providing remote education, he was able to attend in person to his private school and tutoring. Eight months later, Jalen had gone up five to six grade levels in reading and has become much more confident in himself not only for his athletic prowess, but for his academic prowess!
The Grants Committee
The Boston Bar Foundation Grants Committee represents all broad cross-section of the legal community. The Committee reviews grant applications during the annual grant cycle and makes funding recommendations to the Board of Trustees for approval.
Committee members are appointed by the Boston Bar Foundation president and come from all sectors of the legal community (private bar, corporate counsel, legal services, academia). Our members have a strong record of involvement in community service and pro bono, as well as significant knowledge of the Greater Boston legal services community.
The collective expertise and individual backgrounds of its members helps the Grants Committee to strategically direct resources and funding to areas and organizations that effectively address the greatest needs. The committee’s focus spans not only unmet current need, but also emerging issues facing low-income individuals in Greater Boston.