Emmaus House in
East Harlem — the first
home of UJC
In 1984 Doug Lasdon started the Urban Justice Center (originally known as the Legal Action Center for the Homeless) when he secured a $25,000 foundation grant. Doug's first office was located in a burned-out building in East Harlem at Lexington Avenue and 125th Street. From the earliest days at the UJC we have known that to effectively represent the poorest people — people who don't know they have legal rights, let alone how or where to vindicate them — we need to leave our offices. Thus, the UJC has pioneered the use of outreach legal services, establishing ourselves as the first legal advocacy group in the country to employ such methods on an organized basis. Our advocates travel throughout the city talking to client groups and exploring first-hand the conditions of their lives. By speaking directly with clients living in oppressive situations we discover systemic issues that we then address through lawsuits, reports, organizing, and education.
The UJC's successes have received considerable attention from the media and the funding world. This recognition has helped to fuel impressive growth. From an initial Project on behalf of homeless people, we now house ten Projects and a staff of nearly 100.