Jonathan Killoran '13 Salutes Homeless Veterans in Los Angeles
Volunteering in a homeless shelter in Spokane, Wash. left an indelible impression on Jonathan Killoran ’13. In fact, it inspired him to pursue a legal education. “I went to law school so that I could develop skills that would better prepare me to help the homeless and most vulnerable attain lasting success,” he said.
Now in his third year at Loyola, Killoran’s dedication is unwavering. He developed a project called the Lawyer’s Partnership to Serve Veterans, which earned him the highly competitive Equal Justice Works Fellowship. These fellowships are awarded to applicants who develop innovative projects to benefit those most in need of legal assistance. The fellowship will provide the support and funding necessary to springboard his program.
It all began when he worked as the operations supervisor and coordinator of the men’s sleeping program at the shelter in Spokane. There he encountered many homeless veterans who suffered from mental and physical illness because of military service. They qualified for military benefits yet struggled to receive them as a result of complications in the bureaucratic process. He decided a law degree could give him the tools to assist veterans in need of legal and medical services.
As a first-year law student, Killoran was accepted into Loyola’s prestigious Public Interest Scholars Program, where he developed a supportive network of peers passionate about helping the underserved. The Public Interest Scholars program recognizes students who have a history of community service that qualifies them for funded employment opportunities in the public interest sector, mentoring with alumni and academic counseling from faculty. Killoran thrived in the program and made lasting friendships.
“This year, many of us in the program applied for fellowships and often for the same ones,” he said. “Instead of feeling like we were competing with one another, we were able to support one another, give each other advice on application writing and interviews, and provide tips or leads on other employment opportunities that we thought each other would excel in.”
To develop his legal skills and gain experience, he scored an internship with the Inner City Law Center’s Homeless Veteran’s Project after his first year of law school. He provided direct legal assistance to homeless veterans in Los Angeles who qualified for disability compensation and pension benefits yet struggled to attain it. “I loved that my work was connected to someone who would enjoy a long-term benefit if I successfully used my skills and the expertise of those I worked with to tell my client’s story well and advocate on his or her behalf,” he said. This internship laid the groundwork for his project, the Lawyer’s Partnership to Serve Veterans.
Killoran’s project aims to provide homeless veterans with two vital resources: medical and legal services. He created this medical-legal partnership by uniting the Inner City Law Center’s (ICLC) Homeless Veterans Department and the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center (VAMC). This partnership will streamline the service delivery model for chronically homeless veterans. The VAMC will become a one-stop shop for both medical care and legal assistance and the ICLC has expertise in housing issues, veterans’ benefits and homelessness prevention. Killoran’s scope extends beyond homeless veterans; he also helps veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury who require disability compensation benefits to get back on their feet.
Killoran will be the primary legal point of contact for veterans at the VA, and his advocacy work will focus on improving access to veterans’ benefits that will incorporate opportunities for employment and housing stability. In addition, Killoran will receive support from Akin Gump, the Los Angeles law firm that sponsored his fellowship through Equal Justice Works.
Killoran attributes some of his success to Loyola’s faculty and staff. The Mock Interview Program sharpened his interview skills, and the Public Interest Law Center staff directed him to apply for the Equal Justice Works fellowship. Professor Kimberly West-Faulcon also served as a reference for his fellowship application. His work experience at Loyola’s Disability Rights Legal Center has given him valuable real-world skills that are easily transferable to his project.
From a homeless shelter in Spokane, Washington to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, Jonathan Killoran’s passion for helping the underserved has paved the way for a promising career serving the public interest.