At UJC, we measure our success in two ways:
The clients whose lives we improve with our daily advocacy, and the projects we have helped to found, develop, and spin-off into independent and successful social justice organizations.
We are proud of the many independent organizations we have helped to foster over the years. Here are the stories of a recent few:
Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project
In 2015, four Yale law students came to the Urban Justice Center, looking for a home for their newly-founded advocacy group, which works to end wrongful detention and deportation of families in the U.S. Thus, the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) was born. ASAP sees a future where the United States welcomes individuals who come to our borders fleeing violence, and works to achieve this vision online community support, emergency legal aid, and nationwide systemic reform. Over the course of their four years at UJC, they went from a volunteer project to an independent nonprofit with 12 staff serving thousands of clients a year.
International Refugee Assistance Project
Becca Heller launched the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) while still at Yale Law School. Mobilizing direct legal aid, litigation, and systemic advocacy, IRAP serves the world’s most persecuted individuals and empowers the next generation of human rights leaders – which is why she brought the Project to UJC when she graduated. Over the next nine years, the Project flourished in our office, with Heller receiving a 2018 MacArthur Genius Grant for her work. Today, they have 51 staff members and 3000 volunteers, providing services to refugees in and from more than 70 countries worldwide.
TakeRoot Justice (formerly the Community Development Project) was the brainchild of Ray Brescia, a staff member who identified an urgent, unmet need in New York City’s advocacy landscape: legal services and advice for small community-organizing groups, which are underfunded and yet critical to the communities they serve. After over a decade at UJC, TakeRoot is now the premiere organization in the city providing legal, participatory research and policy support to strengthen the work of grassroots and community-based groups dismantling racial, economic and social oppression.
Veteran Advocacy Project
Coco Culhane was working in our Mental Health Project when she came across a horrifying statistic: 22 veterans commit suicide, on average, every day in this country. After discussing the issue with our Executive Director, Doug Lasdon, Culhane launched The Veteran Advocacy Project, which provides free civil legal services to low-income veterans and their families, with a focus on those living with Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, and substance use issues. Thanks to their work, thousands of vets have received critical services and support to help them transition back into civilian life.
The unparalleled freedom we give our Project leaders is what convinced Bianca Tylek to bring Worth Rises (formerly the Corrections Accountability Project) to UJC, after another fellowship had bogged her efforts down in months of needless paperwork. Worth Rises works to dismantle the prison industrial complex and end the exploitation of those it touches by partnering deliberately with directly impacted people and communities. Before spinning off into an independent organization, they successfully fought to make all phone calls to and from NYC jails free of charge, a model they are now using nationwide.