I spent the summer at the Oregon Law Center (OLC) working on the issue of indoor mold. Legal aid offices, health departments, private attorneys, and community-based organizations across the state report that they are being inundated with calls from tenants with mold problems. Litigation has not been a useful tool for bringing about healthier living spaces for tenants; my PILP stipend allowed me to work with attorneys, policy makers, landlords, people who have gotten sick from mold, government agencies, industrial hygienists, and medical professionals to explore other solutions to the mold problem.
Working at OLC was an invaluable learning experience for me. While I was able to continue practicing some of the more traditional legal skills that I have learned in law school, I spent most of my time practicing skills involved in policy making. This set of problem solving skills is not something I get to practice in most of my classes, but is equally valuable to bringing about solutions for clients who need help with mold. I began my work by researching causes of mold, problems with proving legal causation, health consequences of mold, how other jurisdictions have dealt with mold problems, and ways different stakeholders can minimize the incidence and mitigate the harmful effects of mold. Next, I identified and met with local stakeholders to understand the scope of the problem here in Portland, the range of needs of both service providers and their clients, and how effective the current approaches to addressing mold have been. Finally, I got to craft solutions. This phase of my work included designing collaborative projects that address both short term and long term needs for those most impacted, researching funding sources, presenting my proposals to various stakeholders, and implementing projects.