Many low-income residents of the District of Columbia struggle with both intermittent and long-term unemployment. Some of the factors contributing to this problem — poor credit histories, suspended driver’s licenses, employer discrimination and criminal records — can be overcome with the assistance of legal counsel.
In 2014, DC Public Library (DCPL) partnered with Neighborhood Legal Services Program to address the barriers to employment that low-income residents face by bringing volunteer attorneys to walk-in legal clinics located at public libraries. The Breaking Barriers to Employment clinic model combines library support to job seekers, such as resume assistance and computer help from a librarian, with legal information and one-on-one consultation with a lawyer.
Eric Riley is the coordinator for adult programs and partnerships at DCPL. In his role, Riley has overseen hundreds of city-wide programs for adults age 20 and older. He received his MLIS from the University of Washington in 2002 and was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2010 for innovation in programming. Riley has been coordinator for the Barriers to Employment project since the beginning of the program in 2014.
Maya Sheppard is the managing attorney for the Barriers to Employment project at Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP). Prior to joining NLSP, she worked as a public defender representing both youth and adult clients in Knoxville, Tenn. At NLSP, she represents clients who are facing legal barriers to employment such as criminal records, problems with background checks, wrongful placement on the DC Child Protection Register and discrimination.