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May 5, 2008

Struggling local residents get legal assistance and find hope

Another example of United Way of Greater New Haven’s investments paying off

When someone in the Greater New Haven area is unable to obtain legal services because of income, age, disability, discrimination or other barriers, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc. (LAA) can help.

LAA is an organization of attorneys and paraprofessionals who work together to provide high-quality legal services. United Way of Greater New Haven provides essential funding to LAA to help ensure that the association’s attorneys and paraprofessionals are able to meet their clients’ needs.

Below are just a few of the many success stories* shared with us by LAA’s agency representatives. These stories exemplify how those who may feel like they’re alone and without help or hope can receive attentive and thorough legal representation.

*Names have been changed to protect LAA clients.

Ms. G.:
Ms. G. was being evicted for non-payment of rent in a subsidized housing apartment. After reviewing her file, the advocate at New Haven Legal Assistance Association discovered that the amount of rent requested had inappropriately been doubled.

The correct information was sent to the management company who reworked the numbers, refunded Ms. G. $1658 and withdrew the eviction action. LAA’s representation not only prevented Ms. G from being homeless, but returned to her the money she had been improperly charged.

Ms. M.:
Ms. M. is a 19 year old woman whose I.Q. is in the 50s. Her father died before she was born so, as a result, she received Social Security Survivor’s benefits in Puerto Rico. But when she came to New Haven, those benefits were terminated.

New Haven Legal Assistance lawyers discovered that her Survivor’s benefits should not have been terminated. In addition, they determined that she was eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of her own severe mental challenges. LAA attorneys were able to help her with both of these Social Security problems, something she could not have done on her own.

Mr. D.:
In the Spring of 2002, 70-year-old Mr. D. suffered a heart attack. After a few weeks in the hospital, he was sent to a convalescent home. While in the convalescent home, his social security checks were diverted to pay for his medical expenses, leaving him no money for rent.

He explained his predicament to the housing authority manager during his convalescence, but the housing authority still filed an eviction action against him for nonpayment of rent.

Mr. D. contacted the New Haven Legal Assistance Association after receiving notice that judgment had entered against him in eviction court. There is a five-day period in which to open a default eviction judgment and Mr. D. called the law offices on the fifth day. Mr. D. was unable to come to the law offices because he uses a wheelchair and is continuously on oxygen so the LAA attorney traveled to his apartment, completed the motion to open the pleadings and filed them in court that same day.

The attorney was able to prove to the housing authority that Mr. D. was in the convalescent home for several months and that his social security checks were diverted to pay for his care. The housing authority then adjusted his rent to a zero hardship status. The eviction action was withdrawn and Mr. D. can now rest at ease back home in his own apartment.

Miss L.:
Miss L. is a nine year old girl who was twice denied Supplemental Security Income. She has been in and out of St. Raphael’s Children’s Psychiatric hospital for the past three years.

She was diagnosed with major depression with psychotic features, post traumatic stress disorder and chronic conduct disorder. Miss L. suffers from auditory hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and is now in the Shoreline Partial Hospital Program five days a week during the daytime.

The attorneys from New Haven Legal Assistance assembled all of the necessary and appropriate medical information and wrote an accompanying brief. The material was deemed proof enough that Miss L. should be granted Supplemental Security Income on the written record which means that Miss L. was spared the trauma of a hearing.

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