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Local legal intern creates guide to help people with housing insecurity

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 6:01 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Applying for a job, housing or government assistance is impossible without legal documents, like a birth certificate.

Often, people enduring homelessness lose those documents.

Elena has created a guide to getting your birth certificate during her summer internship. (WHSV)
Elena has created a guide to getting your birth certificate during her summer internship. (WHSV)(whsv)

“Anything you need to get out of the cycle of homelessness, you need to prove your identity to do that,” said Elena Pruett-Fiederlein, Rural Summer Legal Corps Fellow at Blue Ridge Legal Aid.

Pruett-Fiederlein is from Harrisonburg and is working at Blue Ridge Legal Aid for the summer. She’s made it her mission to help people experiencing homelessness get their birth certificates.

She said most of her clients do not have permanent housing, but she can help anyone. Many times, people have had their documents stolen from them while living outside or in a shelter.

“A lot of us keep them hidden away in our houses, and often if people are moving, especially if they’re moving in a hurry that stuff gets lost.”

She said people would come to Blue Ridge Legal Aid without any form of ID and have to spend the first few weeks doing getting those copies.

“It’s a little complicated because every state has a different process,” she said.

She knew she had to streamline the process, so she created a 25-page document condensing every state’s guidelines for applying for a new birth certificate.

“I found all the applications online and put them together and the last couple of weeks I’ve kind of condensed that down into that document,” she said.

She said it’s rewarding to help her neighbors.

“It is definitely rewarding when I can get at least that basic document for somebody that will be a starting point for them to get out of the situation they’re in.”

For more on the guide, visit their website.

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