Open Hands Legal Services
Uptown · Downtown · The West Side · The East Side

Open Hands Legal Services is a Christian non-profit organization. 

Recognizing that the law is one of the most powerful anti-poverty tools available, we put it in the hands of New York's most vulnerable by conducting mobile legal aid desks and “Know Your Rights” seminars at soup kitchens and shelters across New York City. We mobilize volunteer attorneys to conduct intake and identify and remove the barriers to success that are legal in nature. Using the law, we can help the homeless obtain housing, the unemployed obtain a fair chance to work, re-entering citizens to move beyond crippling debt, and more.

Mission: Our mission is to uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed in New York. We bring free legal services directly to community members at host non-profit organizations throughout the city. We break down the legal barriers to their success, enabling them to flourish and embody the full persons they are intended to be.

Vision: All lives transformed by the power of justice and hope. 

Our volunteer attorneys serve at all of Open Hands' programs: Legal Aid Desks, Know Your Rights Workshops, and Entrepreneurship Law Workshops.
Our grants support program supplies for Open Hands' programs at six HFNY Affiliates to bring free legal aid services to existing community-based organizations.
We supported Open Hands' construction of a three-year strategic plan, which required the services of a consultant. This plan guided OHLS' growth from one Legal Aid Desk in 2011 to three programs at six HFNY affiliates in 2014.

Legal Aid Desks

Volunteers (attorneys, law students/graduates, paralegals) conduct intake interviews with homeless and low-income New Yorkers at community-based organizations. Volunteers provide  advice, referrals, and follow-up and representation relating to a variety of legal issues as is appropriate, such as housing and public benefits law. No specific legal expertise is required to serve but all volunteers participate in a training session prior to volunteering at the legal aid desk. 

Current locations include: The Father's Heart Ministries in the East Village, All Angels' Church on the Upper West Side, The Relief Bus in East Harlem, and The Bowery Mission in the Lower East Side and in East Harlem. 


Volunteers provide translation services for non-English-speaking clients and attorneys during the legal aid desk sessions. The most needed language skills are Cantonese and Spanish.


All volunteers must be at least 18 years old and attend a training session prior to volunteering.

See below to sign up for these opportunities.
“As a volunteer, I counsel our clients to resolve their legal, and sometimes spiritual issues, by providing them legal advice and prayers. Through volunteering with Open Hands, I've experienced how God is indeed father to the fatherless, defender of the widows and oppressed. God has humbled me through witnessing His powers in answering our prayers for the clients.”
Mark, Volunteer
Have an idea for a new nonprofit? We want to hear it!
February 05, 2016
We’re looking for people who have a "crazy idea" – an idea that would provide a Gospel-response respond to the needs of the poor and marginalized in New York City. An idea that would bring about flourishing and shalom to our city.
What we learned from Tim Keller & Bryan Stevenson last week
May 24, 2016
Last week, in an event co-sponsored by Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Center for Faith and Work, and Hope for New York, Tim Keller & Bryan Stevenson spoke about race, reconciliation, mass incarceration, systemic injustice, and the church. The discussion was equal parts heartbreaking, challenging, and inspiring, and we've shared some of our key takeaways here.
4 ways to pray for our neighbors who are or have been incarcerated
June 08, 2016
This week, in conjunction with our “Hope after Prison” workshop, we hope you will join us as we pray for our justice system and for those currently or formerly incarcerated.
Takeaways from our Hope After Prison Workshop
June 22, 2016
During our “Hope After Prison” workshop on June 8, we heard from four creative and inspiring New York City leaders about their work to empower men and women who have been incarcerated. We were challenged to re-think how we engage with men and women who are returning home from prison, who face very real challenges and barriers to re-entry even after they have served their time.
Three Ways to Help Our Refugee Neighbors This Week
January 31, 2017
Bill Carson, lead pastor of CityReach Church - Bay Ridge and board member at Brooklyn Arab American Friendship Center, offers three ways we can help our refugee and immigrant neighbors this week.
What the Parable of the Persistent Widow Says About Representing the Unrepresented
August 24, 2017
We have much to learn from Jesus' parable of the persistent widow about helping the unrepresented become represented by an advocate. For if a cynical judge will finally be responsive to a widow’s pleas, how much more responsive is the God who created and loves you.
Prayers for Those Seeking Free Legal Aid
August 31, 2017
Free legal services available to low-income New Yorkers are limited and often inadequate—only 20 percent of legal needs of poor New Yorkers are being met. Join us in lifting up our neighbors who find themselves in troubling legal situations to our God who is restoring creation and bringing about justice.