Access to Justice Endures:
In Spite of COVID-19 Pandemic
Amber Tynan, Executive Director at United Partners for Human Services
Who are the heroes you think of when imagining what boots on the ground look like in a crisis?
There’s no doubt the medical professionals are essential to our recovery, but lawyers can be helpful too.
During times of crisis, low-income households are especially vulnerable, like those experiencing homelessness or abuse, seniors, those without medical care or those with sudden loss of income.
The COVID-19 crisis magnifies the hardships countless people in our community face, including the impact of unanticipated civil legal problems. While you can’t always see the work Legal Services of North Florida does, it has been able to stay open throughout this crisis – stopping evictions and foreclosures, helping people access income and benefits programs, sorting through child custody and visitation schedules, and protecting victims of abuse.
Who are the people putting the community back together and helping those struggling post-disaster?
Legal services is a critical part of emergency response in times of crisis. Those with civil legal issues are not guaranteed representation by an attorney and so many are left voiceless, facing insurmountable legal obstacles. Some may not even realize their problems are legal, with solutions embedded in our legal systems.
In the wake of Hurricanes Hermine, Irma and of course, Michael, the LSNF team was on the ground responding to a variety of legal needs. COVID-19 is no different.
A mother whose landlord is threatening her with eviction in spite of a moratorium; low-income workers fighting to get unemployment compensation after their employer closed; so many worrying about access to their stimulus funds when the IRS doesn’t have a current bank account for them; and others facing domestic abuse within the home, wondering how to get out when the statewide safer-in-place initiative seems to force them to stay. People like these and many others are the ones legal aid attorneys can help.
LSNF continues to operate through our phone lines and remote tools to stay in touch with clients and community partners.
If you need legal help and information:
- Call our office at 850-385-9007 Monday to Thursday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. LSNF has a robust centralized phone system and can assist callers through the intake application process over the phone.
- Go online to www.LSNF.org and click on “Request Legal Help” to apply online.
- Current clients can continue to reach out to their attorney or legal staff with whom they already communicate. All of our staff are set up to work from home and can receive calls.
Need Legal Help?
- Give time: Are you an attorney or law student? LSNF has fantastic volunteer opportunities that allow you to decide the amount of time and commitment you want to give. Whether that is a few hours a week to provide advice only through our remote systems, or taking on a case in your field of expertise or, with our help, learning a new area of law, every hour you give provides a fellow resident critical legal information helping them through these difficult times.
- Give money: Maybe you’re not an attorney, but there are other way to help. You can choose where your money goes. Whether you want to give $5 or $500, each dollar supports our work helping those facing life-changing legal issues. Visit LSNF’s website for more information on ways to invest in our mission.
- Give your voice: Share information on LSNF. Help get information out in our community so that our neighbors know that when they have a legal problem, LSNF and the legal community is there to help. Your voice is so powerful, especially in helping cut through the daily noise and reaching those who trust you. LSNF is a resource for not only clients, but partners and our community. The information you share may help someone avoid a legal problem.