The HOPE Public Interest Resource Center teams students with various community agencies in need of volunteers for both legal and non-legal advocacy projects. Students have the opportunity to assist in various areas of practice and are afforded a meaningful opportunity to play a key role in the promotion of access to justice.
These opportunities enable law students to participate in flexible and ongoing projects, learning more about the critical need for involvement while developing their legal advocacy skills.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
As one of the poorest urban centers, Miami is in need of direct services that providing e-filing and rapid tax refunds, allowing clients expeditious access to funds without charging fees for the service. That's where Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) comes in. VITA is a nationwide program that provides free tax assistance to low-income, elderly and disabled individuals who need help with basic income tax return preparation and electronic filing. All VITA volunteers receive training from the IRS and operate a site in conjunction with the IRS during tax season. To ensure that all of Miami-Dade County's diverse residents may access the services, tax preparation assistance is offered in English, Spanish and Creole.
HOPE has teamed up with RAICES, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, to provide assistance to immigrant families recently released from detention.
HOPE seeks to raise awareness about domestic violence, foster student advocacy on behalf of domestic violence survivors and create initiatives to meet the needs of survivors.
Students collaborate with several legal services agencies and community organizations dedicated to serving the needs of indigent and low income women and their families, as well as victims of abuse, neglect, violence and discrimination, including the Legal Aid Society, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Kristi House, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, No More Tears, and the 11th Judicial Circuit Domestic Violence Division.
Education /Youth Literacy
Empowered Youth: This local non-profit dedicates itself to helping at-risk young men between the ages of 12 and 19. Law students assist with tutoring on Saturdays and also serve as mentors to participants enrolled in a Youth Entrepreneurship class.
Books & Buddies: This program targets children who attend local elementary schools in order to promote reading, writing and education. Each semester, Books & Buddies pairs law students with a local student to share and communicate the excitement of reading through the exchange of letters. Correspondence is traded weekly between the Buddies and provides an opportunity for each to learn about their reading pen pal. At the end of each semester the elementary school children are invited to visit the University of Miami School of Law to meet their law school buddy.
Housing and Homeless Assistance
Legal Services of Greater Miami: Students have the opportunity to interview and survey residents at mobile home parks in Miami as part of LSGMI's efforts to preserve affordable housing for local residents.
Lawyers to the Rescue: This group holds a monthly pro bono legal clinic at Camillus House, the county's largest homeless shelter. Students can volunteer to assist local pro bono attorneys with this effort.
Sealing and Expungement Project
The Sealing and Expungement Project allows HOPE volunteers to team with local agencies—including the ACLU, the Office of the Public Defender and the Office of the State Attorney—to provide assistance to individuals seeking to seal or expunge their records.