Legal Services receives grants

Legal Services of South Central Michigan (LSSCM) has been awarded a one-year, $20,000 grant from the Jackson Community Foundation's Unrestricted Community Needs Fund and a two-year, $60,000 grant from Weatherwax Foundation for its homeless prevention program in Jackson County.

''With recent state and federal funding cuts, we are very pleased with these grants to help us protect the basic legal rights of low income individuals and families,'' said Richard Mills, Jackson attorney and LSSCM Board Member. ''Legal aid offices in communities with more local support are able to represent and help more families in need.''

Funding from the Weatherwax Foundation will be used to represent tenants facing eviction in district court and to represent homeowners facing mortgage and property tax foreclosures.

The grant from the Jackson Community Foundation will help prevent homelessness by representing tenants or homeowners facing a loss of their home, mediating landlord tenant disputes, representing domestic violence survivors facing a choice between homelessness and abuse, and assisting individuals in attaining and maintaining a stable household income.

The grant award from the Jackson Community Foundation will allow LSSCM to subcontract with the Southeastern Dispute Resolution Services (SDRS), who will provide mediation for low-income individuals facing eviction, when appropriate.

This is a new collaboration between the two agencies and the District Court in Jackson that will allow each partner to use their expertise and focus resources so that more families are able to receive assistance.

Erica Zimny, supervising attorney of LSSCM's Jackson office, is excited about the increased local resources to serve clients, as well as the new collaboration with the District Court and SDRS.

''If we can prevent a family from becoming homeless, it is less costly for our community and so important to the family,'' she said.

LSSCM represents individuals with nowhere else to turn for free civil legal assistance.

There is a significant need for the services LSSCM provides, with 32 percent of the population (48,671 people) in Jackson County qualifying for free civil legal aid.

LSSCM has a demonstrated history of preventing homelessness through civil legal representation in housing, income, and domestic violence cases. Each year, more than 95 percent of the families LSSCM represents achieve positive outcomes.

Last year, LSSCM provided free legal advice and/or representation to 1335 low-income families in Jackson County.

LSSCM was originally established in 1965 and is now the primary legal services provider in 13 counties in south and central Michigan.

The Jackson office of LSSCM serves Jackson and Hillsdale Counties, and in addition to this new funding, receives support from the Legal Services Corporation, the Michigan State Bar Foundation, the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, Jackson County United Way, the Area Agency on Aging Region II, and the Hillsdale Community Foundation.

Beyond representation in individual cases, LSSCM is part of a network of agencies providing services to the community's most vulnerable members. LSSCM engages in systemic advocacy to help alleviate the barriers and hurdles faced by low-income individuals.

For more information about LSSCM, go to www.lsscm.org.

Published: Thu, Jan 24, 2013

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