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Profile in Good: Sharon Bourassa

As the Director of Special Projects at Legal Aid, Sharon Bourassa selects, pursues and prosecutes significant cases that impact the low-income community. These cases generally seek equitable relief, damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.

Sharon has been at attorney at Legal Aid since 1981, however, her interest and compassion for the low-income community began long before she entered law school and went on to a lifelong career with Legal Aid. Sharon was a divorced mother with two young children receiving welfare assistance via Food Stamps and a Section 8 Housing Voucher. She became determined to earn a college degree and go on to law school, not only to help her family but also to help those who faced the same struggles she experienced.

She became involved in representing extremely low-income clients and families in housing matters in 1986. Since then, Sharon has focused her practice on major impact cases that result in significant impact or class wide relief to local, state, and nation-wide segments of the low-income population. She has litigated cases against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for operating federal housing projects that are in clear violation of applicable housing laws, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to enforce laws concerning a Superfund waste site, and other governmental entities for failure to either comply with applicable code enforcement, housing, and relocation laws or for improper enforcement of said laws.

Most recently, Sharon was instrumental in developing programs to represent welfare and low-income women and men whose legal issues are keeping them from continuing their education or job training. This includes representing them in child custody, domestic violence, evictions, foreclosure and other consumer matters. The program’s holistic approach ensures these persons receive an appropriate assessment and placement into higher education and/or work activities that lead to a better future for them and their families. These individuals often are unable to access public benefits while they are pursuing their education, therefore the program additionally endeavors to pursue access to cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, transportation assistance and tuition assistance as appropriate. Sharon and her team also represent clients who have been unfairly sanctioned by federal and state programs.

ln addition to her critical legal work, Sharon is a patient and tireless mentor, faithfully inspiring a new generation of first-rate, public interest lawyers.

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