About BBF Grants
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.
The deadline to apply for a FY23 grant has passed.
2022-2023 Grantee Organizations
For the 2022-2023 year, the BBF awarded funding to 29 organizations totaling $1,285,000.
Supporting artists and art organizations with equal access to legal resources
Offering shelter and supportive services to survivors as Boston’s largest provider of domestic violence awareness efforts
Addressing systemic barriers that impede students from low-income families, disproportionately students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities, from learning.
Providing quality advocacy and legal services to low-income children and youth
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
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
Serving those who are members of historically oppressed populations by working to address systemic barriers to health care.
Providing pro bono legal services, emergency shelter, permanent affordable housing, and trauma-informed advocacy for children and parents.
Providing pro bono legal services to nonprofit organizations and to individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
Fostering equal opportunity and fighting discrimination on behalf of people of color and immigrants
Removing barriers to educational and life opportunities for children and youth
Promoting equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues
Advocating for the advancement of laws, policies, and practices that secure economic, racial, and social justice for low-income people and communities
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
Delivering civil legal services to the poor and elderly in Northeastern Massachusetts
Working to remove barriers to housing for homeless individuals
Promoting the rights of unjustly detained immigrants to secure safety and freedom for asylum-seekers fleeing persecution
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
Welcoming and supporting immigrants and refugees from around the world, empowering newcomers with critical integration services
Providing comprehensive and transformational services to survivors of domestic violence and abuse in the Greater Boston Area
Promoting self-sufficiency, stability, and financial security for veterans in Massachusetts through comprehensive and accessible legal services
Providing free civil legal assistance to low-income residents of Greater Boston through the pro bono services of private attorneys.
Offering a safe, welcoming day shelter community, providing nutritious food and individualized services for women experiencing poverty or homelessness
Empowering domestic violence survivors by giving them a voice in their abuse prevention hearings and family law cases
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
2022 Grantee Stories
MetroWest Legal Services
Keeping a Client in Her Home
After falling behind on rent due to COVID-related struggles, Maria* was facing eviction from the motel she had been living in. Upon connecting with MetroWest Legal Services (MWLS), they were able to help Maria apply for emergency rental assistance, but because she was living in a motel rather than a traditional apartment, her application was denied. As a matter of policy, the rental assistance program stated that applicants in motels are automatically disqualified for rental assistance. However, the case law was clear that a normal tenancy could be establish at a motel setting, mostly based on the length of the stay.
MWLS appealed the application denial to the state agency in charge of the program. The state agency upheld their own policy against motels and refused to consider Maria’s application. Ultimately, MWLS filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against the state agency and the program administering the emergency rental assistance for a wrongful denial. MWLS moved quickly on an emergency hearing for a preliminary injunction to demonstrate to the court a strong likelihood of success on the merits. On the eve of the first court event, the state agency changed its own policy to include motels for stays of a certain length. With the emergency funding approved, Maria was able to remain in her home, the owner received all the back rent, and the eviction case was dismissed.
About MetroWest Legal Services
MetroWest Legal Services, headquartered in Framingham, MA, provides legal advocacy to protect and advance the rights of people living with lower income or disabilities, or those who are over the age of 60, assisting individuals and families in obtaining legal, social, and economic justice. To meet the needs of our times, MWLS has added education, assistance to victims of domestic abuse and senior citizens, immigration assistance, health advocacy, an active pro bono program, help for unrepresented litigants, and a medical-legal partnership to its list of services. Each year, the organization gives more than 50 outreach presentations and 75 clinics to ensure eligible clients are aware of their services, and notes than helping their clients understand and protect their rights is the first step toward achieving economic independence.
MWLS continues to look for ways to meet uncertain times and new challenges. The organization notes “An increasingly diverse population faces linguistic and cultural barriers to justice. Low-wage workers and even middle-income earners encounter growing insecurity in employment. With over 40,000 people living in our service area considered impoverished, the demand for our services continues to grow.”
Though they assist over 2,000 people a year, MWLS notes it must turn away eligible clients every day, mostly due to a shortage of available attorneys.
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Bringing Justice to Immigrant Children
At the age of 15, with his hometown rife with gang violence, extortion, and the threat of violence, Josue* fled his home country of El Salvador and traveled across Mexico to reach the border of the United States. Upon his arrival, he was transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and released to the care of his mother, who had fled El Salvador when he was very young, in Everett, Massachusetts. His mother contacted the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts (CLCM) for assistance.
A CLCM attorney assisted Josue in obtaining “special findings” from the Middlesex Probate & Family Court, a required step in the process that allowed him to apply for classification as a special immigrant juvenile (SIJ), a type of protection under federal law for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both of their parents. After his petition for special immigrant juvenile status was approved, Josue was able to obtain employment authorization and a driver’s license. He graduated high school in 2020. After a series of COVID-related delays, his application for adjustment of status to legal permanent resident was granted. With the grant of permanent legal status, Josue will be eligible to receive financial aid so that he can attend university and pursue his goal of working in the legal field, helping others like himself.
About the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
The Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts (CLCM) aims to secure equal justice and maximize opportunities for low-income children and youth across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by providing quality, culturally sensitive advocacy and legal services.
The CLCM provides a comprehensive array of legal representation in the areas of education, child welfare (abuse & neglect), immigration, juvenile justice, and various other matters such as mental health, insurance access, family-law related issues, and support to victims of crime. The CLCM also operates a helpline through which it provides legal information, resources, and referrals to youth, parents, attorneys, and helping professionals—this helpline is available at 1-888-KIDLAW8, Monday-through-Thursday, from 9am to 5pm.
Providing a Full Range of Services for Domestic Violence Survivors
When she was served divorce paperwork by her abusive husband, Grace* turned to Dove, Inc. for help. In addition to the impending divorce, she had also received a notice to quit for a no-fault eviction, as her husband’s family member was their landlord. A native Chinese speaker with low income, she was facing intersectional family law, housing, and immigration issues.
DOVE’s family law attorneys represented Grace in Norfolk Probate and Family Court and continued to negotiate a separation agreement while advocating for her to remain in the marital home, and for the housing issue to be dealt with separately through a summary process (eviction) case. DOVE’s housing law attorney also represented her in housing court for multiple court events and is still in discussions with her landlord’s attorney. That work resulted in an agreement whereby she has applied for an Emergency Housing Voucher, which she was expected to have approved. Additionally, the attorneys are assisting with the client’s immigration issues stemming from her divorce.
In this case, Grace came to DOVE with three distinct legal issues that had overlapping components. Because DOVE offers multiple legal services, they were able to assist her with all her legal needs. This not only made the process easier for her, it also allowed DOVE to strategize across legal issues for a better overall outcome in her case.
About DOVE, Inc.
DOVE’s Legal Advocacy Program supports underserved members of our community by providing legal services to domestic violence survivors. It promotes hope, healing, safety, and social change by providing a broad range of preventive and responsive services.
Established in 1978 as a result of the committed efforts of a number of volunteers, DOVE opened the first domestic violence shelter on the South Shore that same year. In the 40+ years since, DOVE has expanded its role, including the creation of its Community Advocacy & Prevention Services office in 2003. In 2004, DOVE expanded its outreach and prevention services further by launching YouthSpeak, their healthy relationships and dating violence prevention youth education program. Today, DOVE also hosts a 24/7 hotline staffed by trained professionals.
Since 1978, DOVE has sheltered nearly 5,000 families, answered more than 45,000 calls through its hotline, and served over 3,000 clients.
Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Ensuring Young Students Have Access to the Services They Need
Conor*, a second-grade student who, like so many other students, was struggling to transition back to school after over a year of remote learning, was also diagnosed with Autism and is an English learner whose primary language – and the only language spoken at home – was Spanish. After Conor’s struggles led to outbursts in the classroom, and those outbursts resulted in his frequent removal from his typical classroom and his peers., his mother reached out to Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC).
MAC’s attorney requested Conor’s records from the district, and immediately noted that none of his school evaluations had been completed in his home language. Further, there was no evidence that the district had assessed his English language proficiency, as legally required.
MAC’s attorney arranged for the Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) providing home services through MassHealth to observe Conor in school. This observation illuminated the fact that his Individual Education Plan was not being fully implemented, and the district was failing to provide required accommodations and services. As a result of MAC’s advocacy, the district agreed not only to provide compensatory services, but ultimately to let Conor remain in his inclusive placement, providing a 1:1 paraprofessional to provide additional support.
About Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Massachusetts Advocates for Children’s (MAC) mission is to remove barriers to educational and life opportunities for children and youth, creating a Commonwealth where all children and youth, particularly those who face the greatest barriers, have an equitable opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive. To do so, the organization reviews more than 1,000 helpline calls per year, provides individual case advocacy, and meets with key stakeholders to understand the barriers that children face in education.
Northeast Legal Aid
Advocating for the Poor and Elderly
Mary*, an elderly and disabled tenant, was served with eviction papers after her son lost his job for pandemic-related reasons and was unable to help her pay her rent. Unfamiliar with technology, Mary was confused by the Court notices about a scheduled “virtual” Zoom hearing. When she did not appear, Mary was defaulted for not appearing at the Zoom hearing, and eventually received a Constable Notice that she was being physically evicted in 48 hours. With help, Mary was able to connect with Northeast Legal Aid, which succeeded in obtaining an Emergency Restraining Order stopping the physical eviction, and in seeking pandemic-related rental assistance to help her catch up on the rent.
About Northeast Legal Aid
Northeast Legal Aid (NLA) delivers civil legal services to the poor and elderly in Northeastern Massachusetts, helping those populations obtain justice and empowerment through skillful, creative, and persistent advocacy for systemic change and high-quality individual representation. NLA’s legal services include community legal education, counsel, and advice, including full representation in complex litigation.
Rian Immigrant Center
Connecting Immigrants with Critical Services
When Matthew* was just 12 years old, his parents’ struggles with substance abuse forced him to drop out of school. Years later and with nowhere to turn, Matthew reached out to Rian Immigrant Center for a legal consultation. His immigration attorney explained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which is a pathway to legal permanent status granted to immigrants under 18 years old who, among other qualifying criteria, have experienced abuse or neglect. Because the SIJS process is an extremely complex type of case, Matthew will need to wait up to two years before he can obtain his Green Card. During that waiting process, Rian will continue to assist Matthew in his work toward obtaining high school credentials, including preparations for the GED exam, and exploring his health insurance options.
About Rian Immigrant Center
Rian Immigrant Center welcomes and supports more than 3,500 immigrants and refugees from more than 120 countries every year, empowering newcomers with critical integration services so they can reach stability, contribute to their communities, and flourish. Rian provides immigration legal services, resource and support services, education and career services, and community-building opportunities while advocating for just and humane immigration policies. The organization also hosts a monthly forms workshop at the BBA Office, allowing volunteer lawyers to assist community members fill out basic immigration forms.
Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project
Helping Clients Win Asylum Protection
After fleeing targeted, politically motivated violence in his native Venezuela and requesting asylum at the U.S. Southern Border, Luis* was jailed and transferred to an ICE detention center in New England, to appear before the Boston Immigration Court. By the time he arrived in New England, he had been bounced around detention centers across the U.S., without the opportunity to speak to an attorney or his family, terrified he would be deported at any moment. During this detention, he learned about the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR) and was able to sign up to receive an intake and consultation with a PAIR attorney, which was quickly accepted. Thanks to the tireless work of that attorney, Luis won asylum protection and release from detention in March 2022.
About Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project
Formed in 1989, the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project is the leading provider of pro bono legal services to low-income asylum-seekers and to immigrants unjustly detained by ICE, whose immigration cases are heard in Boston. PAIR’s mission is to recruit, train, and mentor private attorneys to provide high-quality pro bono representation to these clients by collaborating with the private bar, legal services groups, bar associations, law schools, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Since its founding, PAIR has recruited and trained more than 3,500 pro bono attorneys and has represented and advised more than 15,000 low-income asylum-seekers and detained immigrants without charge.
Veterans Legal Services
Advocacy in Action
Rachel*, an Army veteran new to Massachusetts, sought Veterans Legal Services’ (VLS) representation the day before her hearing to extend a temporary Abuse Protection Order she’d obtained against her husband, who had become physically violent following a fight and was progressively escalating his threatening behavior. Thanks to VLS’s advocacy and support, her husband’s attempt to use her veteran status against her—suggesting, based on her military experience, that she was the violent party—failed. Her order was instead extended for six months, giving her more time to finalize her divorce and secure new, safe, and stable housing.
About Veterans Legal Services
Founded in 1991 out of Boston College School of Law, Veterans Legal Services (VLS) promotes equity in the accessing of justice by providing free and comprehensive civil legal aid services to economically disadvantaged military veterans in Massachusetts. VLS specializes in eviction/homelessness prevention, helping veterans access financial and medical benefits, appealing discharge orders, and promoting healthy family relationships by securing equitable divorce, child custody, parenting time, and child support arrangements. Today, VLS serves more than 750 veterans per year and is the leading legal services organization in Massachusetts devoted exclusively to supporting the civil legal needs of military veterans.
*All names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.
How We Help
“The longstanding support of the Boston Bar Foundation is invaluable to MetroWest Legal Services’ ability to serve our clients. The trust that the BBF places in us by providing unrestricted funding allows us to use the funding where it is most needed and gives us the flexibility to respond to crises and trends that are unforeseen. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has reinforced the need to be nimble and respond to needs we could have never imagined. Thank you to the BBF for your generous support. It takes a village, and we could not do our work without you.”
How We Help
“The Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts can’t overstate the value of the Boston Bar Foundation’s support for our Immigrant Children’s Justice Project during this most recent grant cycle, as well as over the years. That support has been key to our ability to meet the compelling legal needs of hundreds of immigrant children and youth in Lynn and surrounding communities who otherwise would be forced to confront on their own—with their futures, and sometimes their lives, on the line—an unyielding, complex US immigration system. We owe a debt of gratitude to all at the BBF and the BBA for their vital help.”
How We Help
“The BBF’s grant enables DOVE’s legal team to provide wrap-around support to clients like ‘Barbara,’ a single mom caring for four children. Barbara has displayed great strength and bravery in her efforts to keep her children safe and provide them with a brighter future. With the counsel and representation of DOVE’s family law attorney, Barbara secured a restraining order against her abusive husband and is in the divorce process. Additionally, with the help of DOVE’s housing attorney, Barbara is moving towards safe, affordable, sustainable housing for her family.”
How We Help
“The BBF has played an important role in supporting the Massachusetts Advocates for Children Helpline. The Helpline has become a lifeline for many families seeking assistance for their children facing educational obstacles. This assistance became even more vital during the social disconnection caused by the pandemic, when Helpline calls at MAC were soaring. BBF support is also invaluable in supporting MAC’s role as a statewide hub supporting other legal assistance programs and attorneys through training and technical assistance. We are extremely thankful for BBF’s supporting MAC and, more importantly, the families and children we serve.”
How We Help
“We are so grateful to the Boston Bar Foundation for two decades of support for our Immigration Legal Services and the immigrant community. Obtaining immigration status is a first step toward integration, success, and stability, and Rian engages more than 2,400 clients each year, creating pathways to housing, health care, education, and employment. The BBF has been an invaluable partner in this work, and its steady support enables our team to build long-lasting relationships with those we serve.”
How We Help
“PAIR is grateful to have the BBA as a community partner. The BBA provides tremendous financial support, robust legal training for our attorneys, and community collaboration opportunities so PAIR can do its important legal work to protect asylum seekers and immigrants unjustly detained by ICE who turn to PAIR for help to navigate the complex immigration world and secure a safe haven. Thank you to all at the BBA and BBF for supporting PAIR and PAIR clients!”
How We Help
“The Boston Bar Foundation’s 2022-23 grant to Veterans Legal Services is a critical investment in closing the access-to-justice gap affecting economically disadvantaged veteran communities across Greater Boston and beyond. BBF’s support to VLS will go a long way toward paying veterans’ service to our nation forward as VLS scales up our operations, partnerships, and advocacy efforts to holistically and impactfully assist 900 veterans in 2023 (a 26% year-over-year increase) and 1,400 veterans in 2025 with a wide range of civil legal matters.”
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.