ICLC Spotlight: Homeless Veterans Project Senior Staff Attorney, Kara Mahoney

About Kara Mahoney

Kara grew up in New Jersey and Arizona, and has lived in Los Angeles for the past eight years. She has two dogs: a papillon named “Figgy” and a German Shepherd named “MJ.” In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, playing tennis and watching reality TV shows.

Why did you decide to pursue public interest law? More specifically, what about veterans law interests you?
The law can be a practical tool to tackle poverty and oppression. I’m particularly drawn to mental health law because of how intertwined it is with poverty law. Working with veterans in particular interests me because it is a perfect fit between these two subjects. I feel an obligation as a citizen to seek justice for those who have disabilities from their military service – whether they are the result of serving in one of our endless wars or the result of military sexual violence.

How did you hear about Inner City Law Center? What made you want to work here?
I first heard about ICLC during my second year of law school. Melissa Tyner – the Director of the Homeless Veterans Project at ICLC – gave a lunchtime talk about the work she was doing. After hearing about the work and because of my interest in poverty law and mental health law, I applied for an externship with ICLC. I find ICLC to be a congenial and collaborative environment and the people who work here are serious about eradicating homelessness and poverty.

You see and hear a lot of things come through your desk and office every day. A new client, a new story, a new case to solve. What keeps you motivated to do the work you do?
Seeing the impact of the work that we do on our client’s lives motivates me. If we are able to substantially increase a person’s income and get them access to healthcare and other benefits, that can lift them out of poverty and into stable housing. There’s still so much work to be done, but it’s the end result that keeps me going.

What is one of your greatest accomplishments at ICLC?
I hear from clients that they got a chance to tell their story, and they felt heard and believed. Empowering clients in that way is something I take very seriously and means a lot to me.

What advice do you have for aspiring ICLC attorneys?
In general with public interest law, you have to take your job extremely seriously and also take care of yourself. People’s lives – their housing, their ability to eat, their safety – may be your responsibility, and that’s huge. At the same time, take a break and spend time with your loved ones so that you can come back ready to keep doing the work.