Pro Bono Net, in partnership with Lone Star Legal Aid and Neota Logic, is pleased to announce the launch of the Disaster Assistance & Recovery Tool (DART) in Texas. DART is a free web-based application that Lone Star’s community partners can use to screen low-income disaster survivors for potential legal issues and refer them to Lone Star Legal Aid for help. Lone Star Legal Aid is a legal aid provider based in Texas and the fourth largest free legal aid provider in the United States.
The application was designed for use by staff at community-based organizations helping people affected by disasters, including Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda. In the aftermath of natural disasters, lawyers are well-positioned to provide help around issues like obtaining public benefits or assistance, housing, insurance claims, and employment. DART asks issue-specific questions in an interview format and determines which issues present a low, medium, and high legal risk. The DART concept is modeled off Pro Bono Net’s Legal Risk Detector, a web-based issue-spotting and referral app designed for use by social workers to conduct legal health “check ups” for older adults.
“DART is an example of how technology can help reach more people through community advocates and workers. The tool flags legal issues that may emerge in the aftermath of a disaster and facilitates timely legal intervention that can be critical for a just recovery,” said Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager at Pro Bono Net. “We are so proud to have worked with Lone Star Legal Aid and Neota Logic on this project and support families recovering from the impact of natural disasters.”
Through DART, survivors can submit a pre-application form that Lone Star will receive after the interview is completed. Applicants can also choose whether to receive a report of their answers and overall risk. “DART promotes the understanding of the fact that most issues in our daily lives, specifically those that arise after a disaster, have a legal solution,” said Shrushti Kothari, Project Manager of National Disaster Resources and Content at Lone Star Legal Aid. “It simplifies the life of a case manager by providing a legal risk detector which helps determine when there is a legal issue and increases access to free legal services by providing an alternate method of application,” she explained.
With the Atlantic Hurricane season underway and recent severe weather events in Iowa, California and other regions, we hope DART can serve as a model for other collaborations between legal aid programs and community partners to help detect and address the legal needs of disaster survivors.