by Henckel Miranda — None
May 30, 2012 – 14:20
LSHV says that when families are forced to move, they often lose important employment opportunities, which lead to financial hardship. Some of the things that legal services like LSHV are preventing are unwarranted evictions, advocate for healthy and safe living conditions. They also assist families in keeping protected subsidized housing by supporting individuals who might be facing foreclosures. More than ever, Legal Services need assistance in order to truly give justice to all. I found a great article on the Legal Service of Hudson Valley website called Quaint Concept: Justice for All. In the article Barbara Finkerlstein who is executive director of LSHV made a very powerful statement. “Given that our legal system only guarantees that right to an attorney in criminal cases, more than two million new Yorkers appeared in New York Civil Courts without an attorney last year. Most proved the adage about the ineffectiveness of being one’s own attorney. And the resulting anti –plaintiff decisions produce more abuse, homelessness, hunger, despair and crime. This increases the number of individuals needing costly public assistance and decreases the number able to continue living as income earning and tax paying contributors to society”. LSHV has handled over 4,620 housing cases and prevented 600 evictions. It has delayed 350 evictions and handled 1,100 matters dealing with mortgage foreclosure, predatory lending and bankruptcy. Legal services are important because it stops wrongful eviction and provides financial security by keeping families in their homes. Legal Services work on a wide range of issues. Pine Tree Legal Assistance is an excellent example of using legal knowledge to expand to other areas of critical need. One of Pine Tree goals is to augment prospects for low income individuals to find stable employment through education, training, and job placement. They plan on meeting this goal by representing persons who have been wrongfully deprived of benefits or chance through publicly funded education, training and job placement programs. Legal services often represent the wider low income population, as well as those who are disabled, migrant workers, non English speaking clients, victims of domestic violence and veterans. Access to healthcare is important to everyone regardless of where they fall in income but it’s especially hard for low income individuals. As a result, more legal services should make it a priority to maximize access to healthcare for low income peoples. Another organization that exemplifies the importance legal services is the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc (HPRP). Located it in Baltimore, MD. The mission of HPRP is to “End Homelessness in Maryland by providing free legal services, including advice, counsel, education, representation and advocacy for low-income persons who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.” The way the legal service goes about delivering its service along with its many accomplishments are remarkable. They show that legal services around the nation can make a difference. HPRP had many accomplishments, in 2010, working with other community partners lead to a passage of legislation that provides an eviction defense, an early lease termination option and a lock change protocol to protect the safety of victims of domestic violence, as well as sexual assault. In 2009, with the help of another organization, HPRP filed a suit against the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) because of delays in delivering food stamps. According to HPRP, “ DHR’s own data shows that if fails to process over 4,000 applications each month within the time frames mandated by state and federal law. ,thereby unlawfully delaying receipt of subsistence benefits to vulnerable Maryland families.” In my opinion, the most significant accomplishment is HPRP success in obtaining passage of a legislation that required the state to automatically expunge all arrest that did not result in filing charges. The passage of this legislation eliminated a significant barrier for obtaining adequate housing and employment. In 2000, they went forward with a class action lawsuit requiring the city of Baltimore and Maryland to stop discouraging welfare recipients from appealing any changes made to their welfare. A decade later, HPRP received the Economic Justice Award and Public Justice Center and Kirkland and Ellis LLP from the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. HPRP’s success is reflective of their strategic plan to take effect between 2009 and 2014. One of their primary objectives is to expand the advocacy program. Legal Advocacy and Resource Center (LARC) operates in the state of Massachusetts and their mission is to help low-income Massachusetts residents with legal troubles by providing excellent legal information and advice, and making transfers to legal and social service agencies. On there website numerous stories appear about how their service changed the lives of many people. The following stories are examples of the legal troubles LARC clients face and the results. Client x is a 48 year old married woman with children who are adults. There was a long history of verbal abuse and aggressive behavior from the husband. The husband who is an alcoholic would come home drunk at night and assault her while she was slept. After an assault she overcame her fear and filed a 209 A in Dorchester District Court. Client x called LARC for representation during the hearing and help filing for divorce. With LARC’s help, the husband was ordered to leave the apartment and pay some outstanding bills. Client B is 45 year old woman who is disabled. She called LARC because the landlord who lived in the same building as her was coming into her apartment complaining about loud music. The landlord frequently entered the apartment uninvited or with the excuse that she was doing random inspections. When she called LARC Maria was advised of her rights and ways to go about suing the landlord. After client B filed the lawsuit and successfully presented herself , she received $2,000 in damages. The last story is about a woman who was having difficulty using her Section 8 Housing Certificate to rent an apartment. Due to the difficulty in using the Section 8 Certificate, she and her child were at risk of being homeless. With the help of LARC she was granted a brief restraining order and a court order requiring the landlord to find her an apartment. Neighborhood Legal Services (NLS) operates in northeastern Massachusetts and has many success stories. In 2009, NLS staff opened 3,132 new cases and closed 3,056. Out of the three thousand cases opened, 1216 of them were housing cases. NLS believes that homeless prevention is a way to keep families together and reduce stress; it is also more cost effective than putting families in shelters. NLS also worked on cases that saved the home of an elderly couple from predatory lenders and helped a young boy obtain healthcare for surgery. Legal services help to fight the barriers put in place by government services that leave many in the cold. Public legal services have an important role in reducing poverty and homelessness which has been seriously overlooked. What is the impact of public service law firms ? Well, as previously noted, they prevent landlords from taking advantage of unfortunate families. Many times the system is so complicated that families without legal representation don’t know what to do. If they lose their home, they face homelessness and other issues. If the right benefits are not provided to a person with disabilities they could end up facing extreme financial pressure. The impact is very deep, and yet they are facing budget cuts that have the potential to deny justice to so many. Not supporting legal services promotes socioeconomic inequality. defunding legal services goes against the values of equality and trust in judicial system of this country. Poverty and homelessness are a symptom of a much bigger problem, which centers around social and economic justice. For some families, a legal action in which they lose is similar to a natural disaster. Legal services are not the only solution to reducing poverty but it is a step in the right direction.
Rebecca Baker.(2010). Crusader Opens Courts to the Poor. The Journal News. Retrieved January 10,2010 from http://www.lshv.org/assets/pdfs/Journal%20News%20Hero’s%20Profile%20Feb Lawrence McGovern.(2010).Quaint Concept: Justice for All. Huffington Post. Retrieved January 10,2010 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-mcgovern/quaint-concept-justice-fo_b_622465.htm Pine Tree Legal Assistance. Pine Tree Legal Assistance Statement of Priorities. Retrieved January 13,2010 from http://www.ptla.org/priority.htm Massachusetts housing Partnership and Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association. A Guidebook on how cities and tows can use community preservation act funds to support local housing effort. Alan Mallach. Managing Neighborhood Change. Prepared for the National Housing Institute with support from the Surdna Foundation. Homes fro Families.(2008). Executive Summary National Alliance to End Homelessness. Family Homelessness. Fact Checker. Retrieved November 9,2010 from http://www.nrchmi.samhsa.gov/Resource/Family-Homelessness-Fact-Sheet-33091.asp Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Massachusetts Law reform institute and Greater Boston Legal Services.(2010) Support and Protect Families Experiencing or at Risk of Homelessness: Preserve and Improve the Emergency Assistant Program and Related Services for Massachusetts Children and Their Families. Justine Davidson. (2010). Common Ground Recognize of Innovative Architecture. New York Magazine. Retrieved January 24,2011 from http://housingpartnership.net/resources/news/article/?id= Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc. Annual Report 2009 Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc Annual Report 2008 Legal Advocacy and Resource Center (LARC Our Clients. Retrieved January 26 ,2011 from www.Larcma.org/our_clients The Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP). Accomplishments. Retrieved January 25,2011 from http://www.hprplaw.org/ The Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP). Mission Statement. Retrieved January 25, 2011 from http://www.hprplaw.org Jim Breslauer and Sheila C.Casey. Neighborhood Legal Service. Annual Advocacy Report 2008 and 2009. Retrieved January 25, 2011 from http://www.neighborhoodlaw.org/documents/AdvocacyReport_2010_no-spreads.pdf Homeless Persons Representation Prokect, Inc. Strategic Plan 20009 – 2014 Final As Approved June 8, 2009.