COLE THALER | February 28, 2019
Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation doesn’t just work in the courtroom.
You probably know that AVLF provides free legal representation to survivors of intimate partner abuse and low-income tenants.
But AVLF’s commitment to our neighbors runs far deeper. Where community members and policy-makers gather to debate issues and make plans that affect tenants and survivors, AVLF is often in the room, an integral part of the conversation. When leaders and stakeholders come together around a table to dissect problems and strategize solutions, AVLF is at the table too.
We are rolling up our sleeves and doing the work necessary to make Atlanta the safe and stable city our clients deserve.
For example, when civic leaders formed the HouseATL coalition to develop a comprehensive affordable housing plan for Atlanta, AVLF’s Deputy Director, Michael Lucas, joined HouseATL’s executive committee. Michael is also the co-chair of HouseATL’s Prioritizing Communities committee, where he helps implement plans to make Atlanta a city where housing is equitable for all.
This month, when the Georgia House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee held a hearing on House Bill 346, which would ban landlord retaliation against tenants who complain about poor conditions, I was present to give testimony in support of the bill. Sitting directly across the table from House Majority Whip Trey Kelley, I described in detail the horrific conditions in which our tenants live – enduring rats, sewage, mold – and their well-founded fear of retaliation. I urged the legislators to pass the bill to protect Georgia’s most vulnerable tenants.
Jamie Perez, Director of the Safe & Stable Families Project, does not simply serve abuse survivors in the Fulton County Courthouse’s Safe Families Office. She is also the Co-Chair of the Fulton County Family Violence Task Force, a coalition that draws on its member agencies to strengthen protections for domestic violence survivors.
Where community members and policy-makers gather to debate issues and make plans that affect tenants and survivors, AVLF is often in the room.
AVLF staff are also active members of our bar associations. Audrey Bergeson, Family Law Project Staff Attorney, is the Newsletter Co-Editor for the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar and an Officer of the YLD Executive Committee. Standing with Our Neighbors Attorney Ayanna Jones-Lightsy is on the board of the Atlanta Bar’s Public Interest Law Section. Our executive director, Marty Ellin, serves on the State Bar of Georgia’s Access to Justice Committee, which promotes the growth of pro bono service to the poor by Georgia attorneys.
Our commitment to service leads us to other community investments. Standing with Our Neighbors Attorney Erik Provitt serves on the Advisory Board of Warrick Dunn Charities, a nonprofit that awards homes to single mothers. Audrey Bergeson is the Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors for YMCA Camp High Harbour at Lake Allatoona, which ensures that any child who wants to attend summer camp is able to do so, regardless of means.
And our staff is present at Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) meetings; at neighborhood fundraisers; at back-to-school events and holiday fairs. We are at card tables in middle school gymnasiums, at folding tables in church basements, and at gleaming conference room tables in law firms.
At these many tables, we are talking about our clients’ lives and we are listening to our clients’ stories. We are rolling up our sleeves and doing the work necessary to make Atlanta the safe and stable city our clients deserve.
Director, Safe & Stable Homes Project
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Cole serves as the director of AVLF’s Safe and Stable Homes Project. He oversees the Saturday Lawyer Program and the Standing with Our Neighbors Program, among others.
Before joining AVLF, Cole was a supervising staff attorney with Georgia Legal Services Program, where he represented low-income rural Georgians in a variety of civil matters. Previously, Cole worked for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization that works on behalf of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those with HIV. Cole attended Williams College before receiving his J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. He shares his home with two rescue dogs, three rescue cats, and husband.