Homeless Persons’ Legal Service

Homeless Persons’ Legal Service

Everyone in our community should have a safe and secure home. 

The Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) protects and promotes the rights of people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

We provide free legal help to clients and challenge unfair laws and practices that prevent people from having a safe and secure home.

If you need legal help, find out who we can help and how to apply for help.

HPLS uses the experiences of our clients to expose systemic injustice and tackle the factors that cause and perpetuate homelessness. Our work includes:

    • helping with housing issues, including by negotiating with housing providers to prevent vulnerable clients being evicted, challenging unfair rent increases and acting when landlords fail in their legal duties to their tenants;

    • assisting people who may be at risk of homelessness as a result of abuse or domestic violence;

    • advice and representation for people facing criminal charges that can result in homelessness, with a focus on diversion from custody into therapeutic programs that deal with the causes of offending;

    • helping people facing financial hardship by resolving fines and debt, and supporting applications for victims of crime compensation payments; 

    • empowering people with lived experience of homelessness to have their voices heard through our StreetCare advisory group; and

    • advocacy and policy work to address the systemic causes of homelessness.

Our work makes a real difference for clients experiencing significant vulnerability and disadvantage. Many of our clients require specialised support due to complex needs, including concerns relating to mental health and substance abuse. HPLS works actively to reach clients who face challenges accessing mainstream services. 

Our small team of in-house solicitors are trauma-informed and work collaboratively with case workers and community services to provide a holistic legal service. We receive pro bono support from leading law firms to deliver legal advice to clients at locations across Sydney. This gives people experiencing or at risk of homelessness access to legal help in locations where they feel safe and supported. 

A person who needs legal help can see a lawyer face-to-face and receive advice and/or referrals to other services able to help with the person’s problem. For some matters, we provide ongoing assistance and representation in a court or tribunal.

Case study: Helping Ashley* out of a debt trap

Ashley is a young woman who came to HPLS with a debt of more than $12,000 in unpaid fines. Most of the fines were for sleeping on a train without a ticket. 

Ashley had no safe place to stay and her Jobseeker payments would not cover the cost of a train ticket after she’d paid for food, medicine and shoes (which were often stolen while she slept). She was reliant on homelessness services to meet her basic needs, including clean clothes, showers and meals.

HPLS lawyers were successful in getting nearly all of Ashley’s fines waived. This meant Ashley could work on getting her life back on track without the crushing weight of debt.

Ashley’s experience illustrates the added cost of disadvantage and homelessness. The people in our community who are most likely to accumulate unmanageable debts are those with the least ability to pay. Without services like HPLS, Ashley would have to deal with her creditors alone and attempt to meet her basic needs without incurring further debts – all while being homeless. 

* Name has been changed to protect our client’s identity.

News and resources

StreetCare member Tony Pierce discusses the need to gather more data about the deaths of people who have been homeless.
In the Law Society Journal, we explained how the legal issues faced by people experiencing homelessness often reflect the transient and sometimes chaotic nature of their lives.
Our advocacy helped secure changes that are easing the pressure on people in housing crisis.
Our Homeless Persons’ Legal Service helped a public housing tenant win a case against his problem landlord at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Thank you to everyone who attended PIAC’s online forum on 18 May and heard from policy, legal and consumer experts, as we formally launched a new joint report with Homelessness
On this week’s ABC Radio National Law Report hear PIAC’s Maddy Humphries, Roslyn Cook and Damo from StreetCare talking about the criminalisation of homelessness and the impact of COVID-19 on

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