Areas of Work
Access to Civil Justice
Increasingly, people seeking legal help in such critical areas as housing, child custody, access to benefits, and consumer problems are unable to obtain the services they need. The Center is supporting research, instruction, and projects aimed at addressing civil “justice gaps.”
Children and Families
The Center’s current priorities include ending the detention of immigrant families and children in the Berks County Detention Center; supporting Temple’s student-run Student Discipline Advocacy Service program; and a project to eliminate the practice of charging parents for the costs of their children’s confinement in juvenile facilities.
Students are engaging in systemic advocacy and individual representation on behalf of people returning from incarceration. The Center is also supporting research on creative models to link people in the criminal justice system and their families with social services.
Housing and Homelessness
Philadelphia has an extreme shortage of safe, affordable housing for people with low incomes, and a code enforcement “system” that allows uninhabitable conditions to go uncorrected. Center faculty and staff are working to improve access to affordable housing and to analyze and ultimately strengthen the enforcement process.
Illegal detention, language barriers, denials of drivers’ licenses and essential services, and other injustices affect many immigrants in Pennsylvania. Sheller Center students and faculty are advocating on their behalf, as well as engaging in research regarding immigrants’ rights.
Rights of Low-Wage Workers
Wage theft is a huge issue in Pennsylvania: according to the Center’s own research, Pennsylvania workers lose from $19 million to $32 million per week in wages earned but not received. Faculty and students at the Center are engaged in research, systemic advocacy, and individual representation on behalf of these exploited workers. We also support a VITA tax clinic, which helps people with low moderate incomes complete their tax returns and, in many cases, receive tax credits to which they are entitled.