Our very own Justice Bus Program Coordinator, Ruby Kimberly, tells us about bringing vital legal assistance to Hollister.
In her time at OneJustice, Ruby has coordinated 85 Justice Bus trips around the state! These trips are made possible by our amazing volunteers, partner organizations, corporations, and firms, who join forces to bring life-changing legal help to communities all over the state. As a valuable member of our Pro Bono Justice program, we asked Ruby to share a trip that resonated with her the most during her time at OneJustice.
Guest Blogger: Ruby Kimberly, OneJustice Justice Bus Program Coordinator
Photo credit: Realty World
I had been an employee of OneJustice for less than eight months when I boarded a bus to Hollister in July 2014. Before this trip, I had already attended over 20 Justice Bus trips bringing free legal services to nearly 600 low-income individuals throughout the state. Since joining the Pro Bono Justice team as the Justice Bus Program Associate the previous October, I had traveled to and helped organize free legal clinics in communities as far flung and geographically diverse as the Klamath, just south of the Oregon border, to Pixley, a census designated place at the far end of California’s drought-ridden Central Valley. And while each mile traveled proved as critical as the next, I felt something special on this particular day as we made our way down the 101, through Santa Clara County and into the sparsely populated San Benito Valley. This was the first time that the Justice Bus had ever traveled to Hollister, but it would not be the last.
The story of Hollister for me is one of a justice gap and how to fill it. For those who have never heard it, “justice gap” is a term used to describe the discrepancy between the concentration of legal resources in urban areas versus the concentration of low-income and particularly vulnerable populations in rural ones. For example, where as in San Francisco there is one attorney for every six low-income individuals, San Benito County has just one attorney for every 120 low-income individuals. Bridging gaps such as this is the entire raison d’etre for the Justice Bus Project, and it is a goal which requires the effort of a diverse group of stakeholders, usually located in multiple different regions, as well as dexterity and mobility (hence the bus!). And, never had it been more evident to me how well suited the Justice Bus Project is for this seemingly insurmountable task than in the case of Hollister.
Lowenstein Sandler LLP attorney volunteers assist a client with citizenship matters at the July 2014 clinic.
Our journey to Hollister had begun several months earlier when we received a call from a teacher at the local community college. He heard about a Justice Bus clinic we were holding in a neighboring town to assist Green Card holders with their applications for citizenship and wanted to sign some of his students up. Despite the dearth of resources in San Benito County, we would not be able to serve his students, because funding restrictions on this particular clinic limited appointments to locals only.
But the thing I love most about the Justice Bus Project is that where there’s a will, there’s usually a way, and -– after piecing together four different partners from four different counties -– a way we found! Now just over a year later, we’ve held two immigration-focused clinics there, delivering free services to 42 individuals and helping to build a permanent network dedicated to serving the Hollister community.
We continue to receive phone calls from organizations across the County inquiring about our services and how they can help, and together, we’re watching as day-by-day this gap slowly shrinks.
“I am so thankful for this event because much of the time I don’t have the resources necessary to take care of things like [my immigration paperwork]. For me, it is very important to vote but I couldn’t for lack of money to apply for citizenship. Thank you for coming to our community and changing this.” – Client from Hollister clinic
As the Justice Bus Program Coordinator in the Pro Bono Justice Program, Ruby Kimberly coordinates Justice Bus trips in Northern and Southern California, mobilizing attorney and law school student volunteers to bring life-changing legal help to isolated communities in the state.