Providence, RI: Sojourner House has been awarded a 2-year $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) – Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to launch a Legal Services program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Sojourner House is one of eight organizations across the nation to receive award funding through their Expanding Legal Services Initiative (ELSI).

“In the agency’s 47-year history, we’ve never had a licensed attorney on staff to provide client programmatic support, and this transformative grant will change that,” said Vanessa Volz, Executive Director at Sojourner House. “It will enable us to expand the range of legal issues that we can address and also help us to better serve some of our community’s most vulnerable victims—adult immigrants and undocumented children who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking.”

Once launched, the Legal Services program will provide Sojourner House clients who are undocumented with access to direct-legal representation in the areas of divorce, custody, housing and eviction, and labor law. The program will focus on supporting immigrant victims of abuse and help to expand the scope of the agency’s existing Immigration Advocacy program. This new award builds upon Sojourner House’s existing Immigration Legal Advocacy program. The program was created in 2012 to help undocumented clients apply for “U” Visas, “T” Visas, asylum, VAWA
self-petitions, and removal cases. To this day Sojourner House remains the only victim services agency in the state to provide these services in-house. During the group’s last fiscal year (July 2021-June 2022), they served 286 individuals through the Immigration Legal Advocacy program, a 19% increase over the previous

“With the demand for immigration assistance on the rise, we’re excited to be able to expand our service offerings and make legal assistance accessible to all survivors,” said Volz.

As a victim services organization, Sojourner House will be able to offer legal assistance from staff who understand the dynamics of abuse and who recognize the unique barriers that victims experience. All of their services will be trauma-informed, meaning that staff will be encouraged to acknowledge the pervasive nature of trauma and to promote healing and recovery while also avoiding practices that may unintentionally re-traumatize clients.