STREET DEMOCRACY

Power. Justice. Love.

We are lawyers who help the poor and the ignored exercise their power to end poverty and fight injustice.

OUR STORY

 

Street Democracy was established in 2008 to provide a broad range of legal services to impoverished persons and communities. We began by providing direct legal services to the homeless and hungry at a Detroit soup kitchen.

 

In 2010, we evaluated our first two years of work. We realized that we were spending too much time chasing clients who were not ready to be helped. And while we were achieving results for individuals, we were not creating the systemic change needed to address the causes of their condition. We had a choice to make: continue to represent clients on individual matters or use our time to institute programs and structural reforms to try to fundamentally change the way society works for those with the least.

 

We chose the latter.

 

It is thus our mission to eliminate the root causes of homelessness and poverty.

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

OUR JUSTICE WORK

 

STREET COURT

A specialty homeless court in Detroit we co-founded that gives the homeless an opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty and punishment by accepting as payment their hard work to address the root causes of their homelessness. Since the summer of 2012, we have helped more than 243 people put their criminal pasts behind them and stay housed.

 

MORE THAN JUST HOUSING

Because maintaining a home involves so much more than paying the rent, we provide a broad array of legal services to address any civil issue that puts a person’s home in jeopardy.

 

OPEN ACCESS PRO BONO TRAINING MANUAL

In collaboration with Michigan State University College of Law, Lakeshore Legal Aid, and Bodman PLC, we are developing a civil legal aid attorney training program and manual to increase availability and effectiveness of pro bono legal services.

OUR POWER WORK

 

CAMPAIGN TO END PAY-OR-STAY SENTENCING

Our effort, in coordination with the ACLU of Michigan, to end pay-or-stay sentencing, the unconstitutional practice of jailing people for being too poor to pay their court fines and costs. Efforts include impact litigation, establishment of a new court rule, and court observation and education.

 

ACCESS TO PROPERTY TAX POVERTY EXEMPTION

Our work with cities across the state to ensure poor and disabled homeowners have access to information and applications for a poverty exemption for owner-occupants.

 

 

OUR ORGANIZATION

Street Democracy, until mid-2014, was an entirely volunteer-run organization. The financial requirements to maintain our operations were minimal, and accordingly, we did sought donations merely to satisfy those costs. As a result, our financial and operational reporting requirements are barebones.

However, since the additional of our first full-time attorney in 2014, Street Democracy is now required to provide the IRS detailed tax returns. Those tax returns and our financial statements for that year, and every subsequent year will be made available here for public scrutiny.

Patti Carey

Patti Carey

Senior Staff Attorney

Patti, JD, is our senior staff attorney and lead defense counsel in Street Outreach Court Detroit.

Jayesh Patel

Jayesh Patel

Director & President

Jayesh, JD, is a partner at the law firm of Talati Patel and also serves as managing attorney for Street Democracy.

Molly Schmidt-Nowara

Molly Schmidt-Nowara

Director & Secretary

Molly, JD, is a partner at the law firm Garcia Ives Nowara and an Adjunct Professor at University of New Mexico School of Law.

Jiten Ghelani

Jiten Ghelani

Director & Treasurer

Jiten, MBA, is a health care consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Our Offices

Street Democracy
440 Burroughs St #634
Detroit, Michigan 48202

(313) 355-4460
(313) 347-9763 fax
info@streetdemocracy.org