Our Programs

Community Assistance Program

While the number of Atlantans who need emergency financial assistance has grown exponentially during the pandemic, the issue isn’t new. Atlanta’s affordable housing crisis, eviction epidemic, and sky-high rates of homelessness mean that families need immediate access to emergency financial support to keep them safe in their homes.

Since the department’s creation in 2018, the Community Assistance Team (CAT) has made great strides to keep hundreds of families from entering the homeless system. The team has grown from disbursing one grant to multiple grants from different funders. As Atlanta residents have faced endless hardships over the past two years, we responded quickly by creating a team to provide direct financial assistance to families in crisis.

This year, our Community Assistance team provided over $1.9 million in direct financial assistance to Atlanta families in crisis.

In 2021 alone, our Community Assistance Team has served over 1000 families with a total of more than $1.2 million distributed for COVID-19 relief specifically.

By the Numbers

Fulton County residents received financial assistance

distributed directly to clients for emergency financial assistance

client story

Home is Where the Heart is

Ms. V. received emergency financial assistance in December 2021 through our grant with Partners for Home. She had just completed an extensive program to obtain housing. Ms. V. did not have much because she was fleeing from an abusive partner in another state. She had to get housing so that she could be reunited with her 5 children, who had been forced to live with a relative so that she could work and seek housing. Each day she worked hard to save money and look for housing while missing her children and being stressed about their circumstances.

She fought every day to get a step closer to providing a safe and stable environment for her 5 children. After finding housing, she had to look for decent schools for the children. The time she took off from work was unpaid but unavoidable; therefore, she fell behind on her rent. This was an exceedingly challenging time for Ms. V., being that she did not want to lose her kids to the system again.

The rental assistance not only prevented her from losing her apartment, but it also kept her family together in a safe and stable environment.

Homes Shouldn’t Hurt You

Ms. W lived in the same home for eight years. She began to repeatedly fall ill and have difficulty breathing.  At first, she thought she was having panic attacks due to stress.  Finally, she went to the emergency room, and discovered that she was showing the symptoms of mold exposure.

Ms. W contacted AVLF for help.  AVLF hired a company to perform a mold test that exposed dangerous levels of black mold in her home.  The property owner moved Ms. W to a hotel room for a week, but made no repairs.  She was forced to use her renter’s insurance policy to cover an extension of her hotel stay.  When the policy coverage was depleted, she had no choice but to use her own limited funds to stay in an AirBnB.  Every time she attempted to return home, she again suffered symptoms of mold exposure.  After several months, her funds ran out and she had nowhere to go.

AVLF was able to provide emergency financial assistance to Ms. W before she became homeless.  As a result of our help, she was able to find a new place to stay. We also covered her moving expenses. She is now feeling better and is finally in a safe and stable home.

client story

Safe & Stable Families

The Safe & Stable Families project is devoted to helping survivors of intimate partner abuse achieve safety and stability. Our committed team of social workers, attorneys, legal support, and more work to holistically address survivors’ needs, from Temporary Protective Orders to emergency lodging to health and safety supplies.

Through Zoom family law and protective order hearings, mobile advocacy efforts, virtual social work services, and more, the Safe & Stable Families team has provided uninterrupted support to Atlanta survivors throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Our Programs

The Safe Families Office

Walk-in (currently virtual!) lawyer-staffed advice clinic for survivors of intimate partner abuse
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Standing with Survivors

Mobile advocacy program that meets survivors out in the community
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Family Law Program

Provides free family law representation for survivors of intimate partner abuse
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Guardian ad Litem

Trains local attorneys to serve as pro bono guardians ad litem, representing the best interests of the children, in high-conflict custody cases
Learn More

Volunteer Spotlight:

Maddison Stemple-Piatt

Maddison joined the team in January 2021, and she had just finished her first semester at Emory School of Law. Maddison was an Emory Public Interest Committee’s Legal Fellow. Her Fellowship was supposed to last ten weeks; however, Maddison volunteered before and after her Fellowship, and has been participating in our externship program.

Over the course of about sixteen months, Maddison helped nearly a hundred survivors successfully obtain protective orders against their abusers and represented clients in contested evidentiary protective order hearings. She has also helped recruit and train dozens of other law student volunteers to help SFO improve services to clients. Anytime there has been a gap to fill in SFO’s team in some capacity, Maddison has stepped in to fill those gaps to help SFO succeed.

To say that Maddison has been a tremendous asset for SFO is an understatement. Our interns’ dedication doesn’t end when they graduate. Many of the Safe & Stable Families Project’s former interns continue to support AVLF as volunteer attorneys. In 2021, former interns, Katie Ehrlich, Alyssa Potts, and Abby Herrmann all volunteered with the Family Law Program.

client story

Fleeing For Her Children

Mariah was referred to AVLF by a community partner because she was fleeing a domestic relationship from her child’s father, and she needed resources. She did not have a support system and did not know where to go for assistance.

The abuse began to escalate over a couple of years. There was a domestic violence incident in which the police were involved; however, the abuser was not on the scene when the police arrived. Although a warrant for his arrest was issued, Mariah was fearful because he continued to terrorize her. Mariah was afraid that the abuser would act on his threats.

Once Mariah connected with Standing with Survivors (SwS), the Social Worker was able to assess her situation and help her gather a plan to achieve her goals for safety and security. Some of Mariah’s goals were to relocate somewhere the abuser could not find her and obtain a TPO. First, SwS was able to address Mariah’s immediate safety needs by getting her and her children in a safe environment. At the time, the shelter was full, so SwS was able to place Mariah and her children in a hotel. Second, while at the hotel, Mariah was able to obtain a TPO. She was later represented at the 12-month protective order hearing by one of our staff attorneys. The abuser was later arrested on felony criminal charges and SwS was able to connect Mariah to a victim/witness program for additional support. Third, while the abuser was in custody, the social worker was able to connect Mariah with another community partner for transitional housing. Mariah was able to successfully obtain stable housing and relocate to where the abuser cannot find her.

Currently Mariah and her children are doing well. In addition to successfully obtaining housing, Mariah has been able to obtain employment and her children have settled into their new environment and school.

Safe & Stable Homes

Whether it’s contesting an illegal eviction or demanding repairs, our Safe & Stable Homes Project is dedicated to helping low-income renters and workers access the justice they deserve. Our staff and volunteers prevent evictions, provide financial advice, and help tenants navigate the often inscrutable justice system.

When COVID-19 hit, it became the year of uncertainty and constant change. Our Safe & Stable Homes Project pivoted to continue to serve our community. We’ve transitioned all Saturday Lawyer clinics and trainings remotely, expanded our Housing Court Assistance Center (HCAC), and recruited more volunteer attorneys.

in rental assistance to Standing With Our Neighbors families to help prevent eviction and involuntary displacement

attorneys volunteered for the
Saturday Lawyer Program in 2021

Our Programs

Housing Court Assistance Center

Walk-in advice clinic for Fulton County tenants facing eviction
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Saturday Lawyer Program

One-on-one legal support for Atlanta workers and tenants
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Eviction Defense Program

Free legal advice and representation for Fulton County residents with active evictions
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Standing With Our Neighbors Program

Place-based legal support and wraparound services operating out of nine Atlanta schools
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Dollars for Judgments

Collection assistance to make sure clients recover all funds awarded to them in court

Learn More

Volunteer Spotlight:

Takeita Tollman

Takeita embodies AVLF’s core values. In 2021, Attorney Tollman agreed to serve as pro bono counsel to what began as a straightforward housing case. Unbeknownst to her, the Client began the legal process before consulting with an attorney. As a result, Attorney Tollman spent a lot more time on this case than initially expected. She showed up with passion and empathy, and built trust with the Client by serving with professionalism and integrity. In the end, Attorney Tollman helped the Client to secure an amazing settlement! We admire Attorney Tollman’s adaptability after the case turned out to be more than she signed up for.

When Strangers Move Into Your Home

In late 2018, Nadia* and her four young children moved into Pinebrooke Apartments. About a year later, Nadia went out of town to visit family for a few weeks and returned home to discover strangers living in her apartment! Nadia immediately called the police, only to learn that – even though she was current on rent and was still in her original lease term — her landlord had removed all of her property while she was out of town and leased the apartment to other people. Nadia and her family were unexpectedly homeless and lost their personal belongings.

Nadia reached out to AVLF for help. In October 2019, she attended AVLF’s Saturday Lawyer Program. Attorneys Yendelela Neely Holston and Jessica Truelove of the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton agreed to take on Nadia’s case just as the pandemic was hitting. Despite being unable to meet with Nadia in-person and working entirely from their respective homes, Yendelela and Jessica got to work, first sending a demand letter to the landlord and then filing a lawsuit in the summer of 2021. While Nadia will never be made whole from the trauma she suffered, through Jessica and Yendelela’s efforts she was able to recover $10,000 in damages. Yendelela and Jessica are happy that they were able to help Nadia and hope to be able to meet her in person one day.

client story

Nadia is not alone.

Saturday Lawyer cases were opened in 2021

of these cases involved repair and conditions issues


of the clients were Black


of the clients were women

AVLF All-Star Awards

On April 22nd, our community came together to celebrate our 2020 community partners and volunteers. We are grateful to our keynote speaker, Milton Little, Jr. – President, United Way of Greater Atlanta. Presented virtually, we celebrated the following individuals who gave so much to AVLF and made an impact!

Let’s meet our
2021 All-Stars

Guardian ad Litem Program
Volunteer of the Year


Safe Families Office
Volunteer of the Year


Family Law Program
Firm of the Year

Marple Rubin
Family Law

Standing with Survivors / Social Work
Partner of the Year

Housing Plus, Inc.

Standing with Our Neighbors
Firm of the Year Award

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

Standing with Our Neighbors
Attorney of the Year Award

Morgan E. M. Harrison, Arnall Golden Gregory LLP

Standing with Our Neighbors
Community Partner of the Year Award

On the Rise Financial Center

Saturday Lawyer
Volunteer of the Year

Michael Arndt

AVLF Community Partner Award

Financial Planning Association of Georgia

Martin Louis Ellin
Lifetime Achievement Award

In 2020, Marty Ellin retired from AVLF, but his legacy remains. During his going away festivities, we announced the creation of the Martin Louis Ellin Lifetime Achievement Award. This highest award of honor from AVLF recognizes someone who has dedicated much of their career to public service and exhibited compassionate leadership. Fittingly, Marty was the very first award recipient, and this year the award is presented to:

Jim Gober

Arnall Golden Gregory

Jim Gober is the head of Arnall Golden Gregory’s Real Estate Practice and an expert in the field of housing law. He has long been AVLF’s go-to lawyer for all levels of landlord-tenant matters. Whether it was individual claims, or the concerns of a group of tenants in a housing complex, Jim (and at his direction, his partners and associates) represented pro bono dozens of tenants aggrieved by a landlord’s failure or refusal to honor the housing code.

Jim and his team not only prevailed in defense of most landlord’s claims, they also frequently secured judgments for their clients on counterclaims. Marty Ellin shared, “When lawyers from other law firms agreed to represent an AVLF client, but lacked substantive expertise, Jim was happily willing to identify relevant landlord tenant law to any lawyer who needed a push in the right direction.

Especially when he was serving as the AVLF Board President, and learned of cases that were stalled because of a lawyer’s lack of expertise, the question he asked was “May I help in this matter?” And we took advantage of that offer!” Jim has never hesitated to serve as a mentor to AVLF volunteers and staff.

Jim has also been a stalwart volunteer for the Safe and Stable Families Project. When the intimate partner abuse program first started, Arnall Golden Gregory was the first firm to sponsor. Jim was in that first group of volunteers and has remained a dedicated volunteer. He helped lay the groundwork for the program as it is today – a nationally recognized model.

Thank you Jim for your service to AVLF and congratulations on your award.