Graduate selected for fellowship to assist veterans

December 05, 2012

Alex West '12, was selected as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow with the Veterans Project at the Northwest Justice Project. 

Alex WestThe project provides free legal services to financially eligible low- income and homeless veterans facing civil legal problems that are barriers to housing, employment, and self-sufficiency. It provides legal advice, representation, and referrals on a variety of civil legal issues, including child support issues, vacating criminal convictions and records, driver's license suspensions, consumer law, housing issues, veterans benefits, and discharge upgrades.

West works to connect with veterans by attending events like the Seattle Stand Down, the Kitsap County Stand Down, and community resource fairs at the Veterans Administration. He works with community partners, including social workers in many different organizations and Veterans Treatment Courts. His project sees veterans from the Vietnam era, and Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and many in between and earlier.

"We get referrals from numerous places," he said. "There is definitely a very high demand for veteran-specific civil legal assistance. While there are a lot of services for veterans in Seattle and King County, there are also high rates of homelessness and unemployment among veterans here, mirroring national trends."

He enjoys not only the variety of legal issues, but also the chance to work more holistically and connect veterans with non-legal resources. West said his background in social work and his law school experiences helped prepare him for this role. Before law school, he worked for Plymouth Healing Communities and YouthCare's ISIS house with homeless queer and trans young people. During law school, he volunteered with SYLAW (Street Youth Legal Advocates Washington) and was in the  Predatory Lending Clinic and Mental Health Court Clinic.

"Both of these clinics gave me important skills in working with clients, and the Mental Health Court Clinic experience has proved invaluable as I now have a solid understanding of what therapeutic courts are like and who the players are," he said.

As a student, West was named one of Seattle University's UnSUng Heroes for his work with the Social Justice Coalition. He continues to be involved with the Racial Justice Leadership Institute at the law school for students and alumni.