ALSC’s May Volunteer of the Month is Anne Wilkas! Anne uses her extensive skill-set and passionate advocacy to make a profound difference for Alaskans by volunteering through ALSC’s Housing Court Justice Project. Read on for our interview with Anne about her pro bono work with ALSC:
Why did you choose to volunteer with ALSC?
In law school I worked in the housing division of Greater Boston Legal Services. Representing tenants was quite fulfilling. When I saw that ALSC needed volunteers for the Alaska Housing Court Justice Project, I felt that I could put my knowledge and advocacy skills to good use to represent tenants facing eviction in Anchorage.
What are some of your experiences at ALSC that have made a positive difference in the lives of others and/or the community?
Although it seems that most of the time my representation merely results in negotiating extra time for the tenant to vacate the premises, there have been some more significant remedies. For example, I have been able to negotiate payment of back rent that has allowed tenants to remain in their dwelling. In one case, I was able to show the court that the landlord was evicting the tenant because the tenant had brought a legal claim against the landlord for an injury that occurred on the premises. Eviction under these circumstances is prohibited. Mostly, I feel that tenants who feel defeated when they walk into the courthouse can come into the “office” outside the courtroom where volunteer attorneys are available and have someone who listens, understands and explains the process so they feel more empowered.
How do you think your experiences with ALSC will benefit you in the future?
I have a lot of sympathy for the people whose predicaments lead to eviction. So many of them face hardships that are unimaginable to most, and volunteering for ALSC reminds me how fortunate I am to be able to help no matter how little or much I am able to do. I also have sympathy for landlords who have given tenants multiple chances to cure. I wanted to paint all landlords as evil but that, generally, is not the case.
Anything else you’d like to share – personal or professional?
Most of my volunteer work has been on conservation boards or immigration asylum. Working in housing law has been a welcome diversification. My volunteer housing work has been an important education for my whole family!