2018 Annual Report: Constituent Services
Low-income Americans risk losing their jobs, livelihoods, homes, children, and even their safety when forced to go without legal representation.
LSC grantees provide expert legal counsel for low-income individuals and families strained by civil legal matters. Those who live in households with incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty line—$15,613 for an individual, $32,188 for a family of four in 2018—are eligible for LSC-funded legal help. Clients are demographically diverse and live in rural, suburban, and urban districts across the U.S. They include veterans and military families, home- owners and renters, families with children, the disabled, victims of natural disasters, domestic violence survivors, and the elderly. Low-income Americans risk losing their jobs, livelihood, homes, children, and even their safety when forced to go without legal representation. LSC supports eligible, low-income Americans in navigating the legal system. In 2018 alone, grantees served more than 1.8 million people. LSC grantees aim to provide effective counsel by employing experienced, specialized, and committed professionals with a wide range of expertise on civil legal matters.
Nearly one-third of all cases closed by LSC grantees are family law cases. These include helping parents obtain or keep custody of children, securing guardianship of orphaned or abused children for family members, and procuring protective orders for domestic violence survivors.
Multiple housing issues affect low-income individuals and families, making this the second largest category of cases closed by LSC grantees. These cases include resolving landlord-tenant disputes, avoiding wrongful foreclosures or renegotiating mortgages, and assisting homeowners in foreclosure matters.
LSC grantees help clients obtain veterans, unemployment, disability, and health care benefits for which they are eligible. They also provide representation when benefits are wrongfully denied.
Protecting seniors and other vulnerable individuals like disaster survivors is a priority for LSC grantees. Low-income families are often targeted by unscrupulous lenders or fraudulent contractors and need legal advice to manage their debt and defend their consumer rights.
Client Success Stories
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
When Sonia was 17 years old, she visited a for-profit school called the Career Institute of Long Beach. She was a single mother making $5.25 an hour, and decided not to enroll. The school, however, obtained more than $5,000 dollars in federal student loans under her name, which eventually were defaulted and totaled more than $30,000. Sonia began receiving multiple threatening phone calls to collect on the loan. Amid this ordeal, Sonia was tending to her daughter who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sonia turned to the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which filed an appeal to the district court to challenge the denial of her false certification discharge. They were able to get her student loans discharged and allow Sonia to move forward with her life. Today, Sonia is on her way to earning her GED at a local school.
To hear Sonia's story, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAo8fsFkqMY
Legal Aid of North Carolina
Hurricane Florence ravaged North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, forcing hundreds to evacuate without their belongings. Matters only worsened for residents living in Crystal Coast Apartments when they returned home to find not only extensive damage, but also letters from their property’s management instructing them to vacate within 72 hours. Liz Ponder, a Legal Aid of North Carolina pro bono volunteer, encouraged the tenants to call Legal Aid of North Carolina to set up a claim and start investigating. One of those affected tenants, Emily, faced potential homelessness given the lack of affordable housing and shelter options in her area. A legal aid attorney advocated for Emily and her neighbors, made them aware of their rights as tenants, and was able to get Emily back in her home.
To hear Emily's story, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgTR_ziXF0I&t=92s
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
Charron was diagnosed with lupus in 2001 and struggled to maintain a steady income. When Charron received an eviction notice giving her and her children three days to vacate their home, she rushed to Legal Services of the Hudson Valley for help. The family had already been facing food insecurity, forcing Charron to not only take on two jobs, but also choose between paying rent or her electricity bill. After an evaluation, legal aid staff determined that the landlord was charging Charron higher than the legally regulated rent. After three years of fighting, Charron and her family were able to stay in their home.
To hear Charron's story, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL1Tm40L9v0
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
Brittany was a single mother of an autistic eight-year-old boy when she faced eviction after a friend stole her rent money. Brittany turned to Legal Services of the Hudson Valley to prevent her and her son from becoming homeless. She felt an added sense of urgency given her concern that breaking her son’s routine would cause him to regress. Staff attorneys were able to work with the landlord and get Brittany more time to stay at her home while she searched for a new apartment.
To hear Brittany's story, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL1Tm40L9v0
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
Mr. Washington, a disabled veteran, needed help receiving Social Security and veterans benefits. His birth certificate had a misspelling that kept him from receiving the state ID card he needed to apply for benefits. He had been trying to get the change made for years with no success. Finally, he turned to Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas for help. Staff there went immediately to work, and now Mr. Washington can access the benefits to which he is entitled.
To hear Mr. Washington's story, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM2Wvn_ax3s
Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago
Kathy experienced severe verbal and physical abuse from her husband, requiring police to intervene. He eventually moved out, leaving her home in foreclosure. Not sure where to turn, Kathy reached out to LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago). Staff there helped her through her divorce case and even made sure Kathy was comfortable in court when her abuser was present. LAF was also able to win her home and its equity from her ex-husband, along with ensuring her future safety by procuring a protective order against her abuser.
To hear Kathy's story, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NObNWQbpMF4