To protect & advance the legal rights of low-income, elderly & other disenfranchised people; to challenge institutional barriers to justice.
Community Legal Aid, Inc. is the state-funded legal aid program that provides free legal services to low-income and elderly families and individuals in central and western Massachusetts. Community Legal Aid was formed in 2011 when Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts Legal Services came together.
Community Legal Aid’s mission is to protect and advance the legal rights of low-income and elderly people in order to secure access to basic needs and to challenge institutional barriers to social and economic justice. Community Legal Aid and its predecessor agencies have been providing high quality legal assistance throughout the region for several decades.
Through Community Legal Aid’s effective advocacy in approximately 4,000 cases each year, the region’s most vulnerable residents obtain safe and stable housing, access disability and other benefits programs to stabilize their income, and break free from domestic violence. The vast majority of Community Legal Aid’s clients have household incomes that fall below 125% of the federal poverty level ($2,401 monthly for a family of four). With a dedicated staff of more than 35 attorneys and paralegals, Community Legal Aid provides critical legal representation to clients who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer to assist them with their most basic needs.
At least 80% of clients served by our programs will have positive outcomes in their cases. Cases like the Damon's and Jeanne's shed light on the important and life altering work that CLA does.
The Damon's Story: The Damons were facing foreclosure on their home in Uxbridge after Michael, an Iraq war veteran, could not return to work due to a hip condition. After their mortgage's adjustable rate rose drastically, the house was foreclosed and the family was threatened with eviction and homelessness. The couple then turned to us. With the help of their lawyer, the Damons were able to prevent the eviction and stay in their home. Their lawyer continued to help them as they explored the options of renegotiating their mortgage or buying the house back from the lender, Countrywide. Lisa Damon credits legal aid with keeping her family in their home. "Honestly," she says, "I don't know where my husband and two children would be without their help."
Jeanne's Story: For 13 years, Jeanne’s husband, Shawn, kept up an increasingly violent barrage of restrictions, threats, and assaults that left Jeanne injured, terrified and isolated. Jeanne finally gathered the strength to leave, moving into a family shelter with her two children and filing for a divorce. After the court awarded Jeanne temporary emergency custody of the children, she was referred to Community Legal Aid, where Attorney Margery Kennard handled her case. After one year and a two-day divorce trial, with Marge by her side all the way, Jeanne was awarded full physical and legal custody of the children as well as child support. Jeanne says, of the assistance she received from Community Legal Aid, “I would not have custody of my kids…if not for Community Legal Aid. Marge truly cared about me and shared in my progress every step of the way; she will always have a special place in my heart.”
Today, Community Legal Aid needs your help to increase and diversify its funding, as it now faces a severe funding crisis. Community Legal Aid’s largest funding source is the Mass. Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), which makes annual disbursements of legislatively-appropriated funding and revenues from the Interest On Lawyer’s Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program to Massachusetts legal aid programs. Both of those funding streams have declined dramatically since 2008, forcing MLAC to drastically reduce its general support grants to Community Legal Aid and other legal aid programs it funds; between FY2008 and today, Community Legal Aid has lost 62% of its general support funding from MLAC. Community Legal Aid’s Board of Directors has allowed the organization to budget a deficit over the past three years, which we have covered with our reserves. In the wake of these difficult fiscal realities, Community Legal Aid has embarked on a variety of fundraising activities intended to diversify its funding streams, including applying for grants from private foundations and corporations and soliciting donations from individuals, like yourselves.