Increasing Access to Legal Services
According to The Justice Index, Texas ranks 47th in access to legal aid lawyers. This lack of resources means that less than 10% of the civil legal needs of low-income Texans are being met. Thanks to a new partnership that Center for Transforming Lives (CTL) has forged with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (LANWT), we hope to greatly increase access to legal services for program participants at the Center for Transforming Lives, and people experiencing or exiting homelessness throughout Tarrant County.
LANWT is a nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families in North and West Texas. Recently, LANWT received a grant to expand its services specifically to benefit people experiencing homelessness, facing homelessness, or experiencing barriers to housing. The grant requires LANWT to select a nonprofit partner to act as the lead agency for referrals, and CTL is honored to have been chosen for that role. An attorney and paralegal were recently hired by LANWT for this project and they will be moving into offices in our downtown location.
This type of access to free legal services will greatly benefit the families at CTL, as well as clients from other agencies within the homeless services system who often face legal challenges. One example is a mother with a troubled past who was charged with a felony at the age of 15. Several years later, she and her children entered our housing program. She was in the process of turning her life around and providing a stable home for her family, but because of the charge, her applications for housing were rejected. She was discouraged and felt like she could not continue. Her hard work just didn’t feel like it was paying off. In a case like that, lawyers may be able to help with an expunction of her criminal record that would allow her a fresh start, living in a new home.
In another case, one of the mothers in our Early Head Start program called her case manager, frantic for help. Her former spouse had hired an attorney to try to remove her children from her custody, using her unstable living situation as the primary reason. Through our work with this family, we knew that she was a good mom and was doing everything possible to support her children’s education and find stability. But with few resources and an attorney on the other side, she was understandably frightened.
We are excited to start this journey with the team from LANWT and are grateful to have been selected as Legal Aid’s partner in this new endeavor. Having another tool like this in our toolbox will allow us to improve our ability to meet the multifaceted needs of the families that we serve.
Written by: Heather Lowe, MSW, Coordinator, Coalition for Homeless Children email@example.com