Need help restoring utilities or preventing foreclosure? Legal help is available by phone - Generocity Philly

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Apr. 13, 2020 7:25 am

Need help restoring utilities or preventing foreclosure? Legal help is available by phone

Community Legal Services has closed its physical doors, but the staff is still helping Philadelphians deal with pressing legal issues, says Dawn Williams, one of the nonprofit's managing attorneys.

From left: Bridget Biddle, social worker, Youth Justice Project; Vikram Patel, attorney, Housing Unit; Beth Larin, attorney, Family Advocacy Unit.

(Courtesy photos)

This guest post was written by Dawn Williams, the managing attorney of Community Legal of Services intake and of CLS’s North Philadelphia Law Center.
People facing legal problems may not know where to turn right now. Many Philadelphians were living in poverty and struggling to get by before the pandemic, and we know many people’s situations have only gotten worse with the loss of jobs and family supports.

Every day, Philadelphians face urgent and important legal problems, including eviction and mortgage foreclosure; wage theft; problems getting or keeping disability benefits, SNAP (food stamps), and health insurance (Medical Assistance); family issues; and more. As people experience sickness, layoffs, and financial insecurity because of the Coronavirus crisis, it is more important than ever that people know they have a place to turn.

Many nonprofit organizations, including Community Legal Services (CLS), have closed our physical doors, but even though our doors aren’t open, our phone lines are — and our advocates are tackling challenges and fighting for justice every day while we operate remotely. We know that these are trying times for so many people, and we are doing whatever we can to help people maintain their homes, health, and income during this pandemic.

CLS is a nonprofit law firm that helps 12,000 people each year with their civil legal problems. Under normal circumstances, these 12,000 people walk through our doors, where they are greeted by expert advocates who can listen to their problems on the spot and help them with their legal issues.

But these are not normal circumstances.

In response to this crisis, CLS now interviews new clients over the phone as all our advocates work from home. These are some of the services we are helping with:

  • Helping people get their utility service restored, so they can stay safely in their home with running water, heat, and electricity.
  • Preventing evictions, foreclosures and consumer scams.
  • Ensuring that people can get and maintain health insurance, including Medical Assistance (Medicaid), so they can stay healthy and access medical care.
  • Supporting parents and helping families reunify.
  • Helping people who have lost their income access SNAP (food stamps), LIHEAP heating assistance, and vital supports.
  • Helping people with disabilities access SSI benefits.

If you are facing any of these legal issues or the other issues listed on our website, call us at 215-981-3700. You will be directed to a voice mailbox, based on your legal issue. Leave us a message and we will call you back. This is how we are accepting new clients during the Coronavirus crisis, and our staff is ready and waiting to try to help.

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Additionally, we are one of the organizations that operates the Philly Tenant Hotline at 267-443-2500 and the website www.phillytenant.org. Although evictions are illegal while the courts are closed, we have received calls that some people are being evicted illegally. The Philly Tenant Hotline is where you can get advice and possible legal representation on a number of tenant issues, including illegal eviction.

To find up-to-date information about legal issues, including what is happening with the courts and new resources available to you, visit https://clsphila.org/coronavirus/. We are posting new fact sheets daily, including information on paid sick days and workers’ rights, what to do if you can’t pay your rent or mortgage, and rights for immigrants during the Coronavirus crisis.

We are deeply appreciative of all of the work being done in our city to help our community navigate this crisis. We are proud to be part of the fight for justice during this critical time, and we encourage you to reach out to us for help.

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