Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc.
Ground-breaking Intralinks VIA® implementation transforms the lives of the homeless.
When you’re homeless, keeping track of your personal identification, birth certificate, legal papers, and other documents is a major challenge that we take for granted. While living on the streets and in shelters, homeless people learn the hard way that theft, weather damage, and incidental losses are just a few of the things that destroy important papers. They need these documents to receive medical care, access public benefits, apply for jobs, and ultimately build a path to independent living.
Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc. (TRLS) realized that the homeless population needed a reliable, secure, and easy way to access important documents. TRLS is a non-profit law firm dedicated to the provision of quality legal assistance to the poor, abused, disabled and neglected, and to empowerment through preventive legal education.
Mark Watson, Homelessness Outreach Advocate Three Rivers Legal Services, explains, "Traditionally, we stored legal documents and other files belonging to our homeless clients on an internal case management system. When I was in the field working with people at libraries, parks, shelters, and government offices, I wasn't able to access these files from my smartphone. And mailing copies of these documents to our homeless clients often was not possible."
Initially, TRLS considered storing client documents on Google Drive or Dropbox but became concerned about the security and privacy issues with these cloud service providers. After a review of options, TRLS selected Intralinks VIA®.
Now, lawyers at TRLS not only have a secure and compliant virtual enterprise content collaboration platform for hosting client documents but also have a secure address for delivery of these documents to their clients. Their clients access these documents from their smartphones or log into Intralinks VIA from a computer at a local library or other locations.
According to Christine Larson, Executive Director, Three Rivers Legal Services, Intralinks VIA is having a transformative impact on the lives of homeless people. "With Intralinks VIA and our legal aid support, a client with a broken leg who was living under a tree got access to documents that helped him receive disability benefits and medical treatment. He eventually secured an apartment and his entire life turned around."
Today, 20 clients use Intralinks VIA. In a year, TRLS expects to scale the project to serve 100-plus clients, especially as free smartphone programs become more available to disadvantaged population.
In six months since launching the service, TRLS reports that five of its 20 homeless clients—25 percent—using Intralinks VIA have moved to independent living. That compares to about a 10 percent reduction in homelessness since 2010 nationally according to The President’s 2016 Budget: Fact Sheet on Homelessness Assistance.
Watson adds, "With online access to medical records and patient history, I've seen psychiatrists make better-informed diagnoses and prescribe medications that helped clients stabilize to the point where they were able to get jobs and housing. This decreases the chance of psychiatrists prescribing medications that produce bad reactions in their patients."
Intralinks VIA is also tied to economic benefits, says Watson. "By helping our clients get out of homelessness and pay for rent, utilities, and groceries over the past two years, we estimate thousands of dollars have been returned to the local economy. We're also reducing the high costs of unreimbursed medical care and homeless shelter living. In short, I believe that Intralinks VIA improves these outcomes."
In addition, Watson reports that completing an online application for Social Security benefits with a client at a public library and uploading proper documentation would take an hour on an average with Intralinks VIA. This is compared to the three-plus hours it would take to drive paper copies back to the office, and then scan and fax them to the Social Security Administration.
"The typical Social Security disability case might take two years because it takes so long for homeless clients to track down and submit the proper documentation," Larson says. "Now that everything is online, Intralinks VIA is helping us resolve a case and get income to the client in as little as a month. That has a huge impact."
Intralinks VIA’s technology capabilities also have been closely aligned with client priorities at TRLS, explains Alan Hill, Administrator, Three Rivers Legal Services Administrator.
"We have an absolute duty to preserve client privacy," he says. "We value the bank-grade security of Intralinks VIA, which stores confidential information and personal data for some of the largest financial institutions. With Intralinks VIA, we're confident that our clients' privacy and data security will not be compromised."
"Because Intralinks VIA is easy to use, it's helping many of our homeless clients to overcome their fear of technology," Watson adds. "It definitely feels like a victory when they are able to cross that divide and try out the solution."
As one of the first few non-profit legal organizations in the U.S. offering online file sharing services to homeless clients, TRLS is discovering that excitement about the project is growing.
"Another legal aid program in Florida will visit us soon to learn how we did this so they can offer the same service to their clients," comments Larson. "It's a wonderful example of how technology can help people make their lives so much better."