SALSA, formerly known as the Community Justice Program, started over twenty years ago when Justice Phylis Speedlin and Judge Karen Pozza recognized the need for pro bono legal services in San Antonio. After exploring how pro bono programs worked in Dallas and Austin, a committee was formed in partnership with San Antonio Bar Association leadership to create the “Just Take One” program which paired attorneys with clients in need. The “Just Take One” program evolved into the Community Justice Program and received its non-profit status in 2004.
Over the years, partnerships with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and St. Mary’s University Law School allowed the program to prosper and grow using a recurring legal clinic model. These recurring clinics target indigent, vulnerable and at-risk populations, including Habitat for Humanity families needing to protect their assets as first-time homeowners and disabled veterans fighting for access to earned benefits.
In addition to providing services through recurring clinics, SALSA has been responsive to community needs through a variety of pop-up clinics following local and regional disasters. In the last five years volunteers provided critical legal services for families who suffered devastation at the hands of Hurricane Harvey, responded to the complex legal needs that emerged following the Sutherland Springs shooting, and engaged in estate planning services for frontline healthcare workers during the initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August 2019, SALSA’s founding partner, the San Antonio Bar Association, voted to usher in a new era for the program with the establishment of an independent Board of Directors. The decision to re-launch as a stand-alone entity stemmed from the recognition that a dedicated group was necessary to expand and tailor programming to address the enormous need for civil legal services in our local community.
SALSA relies on generous support from the San Antonio Bar Foundation, the Association of Corporate Counsel South/Central Texas Chapter, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the Texas Bar Foundation, local law firms and community members. This ongoing support ensures that when community needs are identified, SALSA stands ready to serve its clients. Over the years, SALSA has become the reality that Justice Speedlin and Judge Pozza imagined so many years earlier.