SLLS Changes The Lives of Vulnerable People

 

Success Stories

Ending the Cycle of Violence Among Vulnerable People

For 22 years, Ms. Z suffered mental, emotional, physical, and financial abuse at the hands and fists of her husband. He also abused their children - both physically and mentally. When we met Ms. Z, she was unemployed, living in a cramped two-bedroom apartment with her mother and three daughters.

We empowered Ms. Z to confront her husband and tell others the story of what he had done to her and to their family. We represented Ms. Z in court and helped her obtain a divorce, sole custody of her children, supervised visitation, and a permanent injunction to protect her from future abuse.

Only six months later, Ms. Z was back on her feet – employed with her own housing with enough room for her family. They finally had the freedom to heal from the decades of abuse.

Protecting Seniors from Abuse and Financial Exploitation

Mrs. J., an 82-year-old widow, helped care for her grandson all his life.  When he was going through a tough time, she let him rent the other half of the double next door to where she lives. He was struggling with drugs and mental health issues and was committed for a short time. Mrs. J. helped pay the cost for her grandson to go to drug rehabilitation.

As a condition of his release from commitment, his had to relinquish his firearms. Mrs. J. agreed to store those guns. Things were okay for a short time -- but her grandson's behavior soon became abusive and threatening.

When she would not return his guns, he called her names, degraded her, carved slurs into her property, caused serious structural damage to her home, set her couch on fire, and threatened her with serious bodily harm. He injured one of Mrs. J’s close friends after the friend tried to help her.

The police were called several times. At her wit's end and feeling unsafe in her own home, she sought help from a domestic violence shelter which in turn called SLLS to get Mrs. J legal protection.

Through our Victim of Crime Act Elder Abuse & Financial Exploitation Project, we provided Mrs. J with emergency legal help. After we reviewed her legal options with her, Mrs. J. felt her only choice was to evict her grandson and to seek an order of protection from the court.

Within days after her request for legal help, SLLS helped secure a temporary restraining order. Caring about her grandson and her family despite all she had suffered, Mrs. J did not want to drag her grandson through a public trial. So, on the day of her protective order hearing, we successfully negotiated an 18-month consent Protective Order.

The order prevents her abuser from contacting her, requires him not to come within 25 feet of her, prevents further damage to her property, eliminates future harassment, and limits his access to firearms. If she feels threatened, Mrs. J. now has the power to protect herself by enforcing the order of protection.

Though this was a very difficult action for Mrs. J to take, she is happy with the result and glad she did not have to testify against her grandson in open court.

Improving the Health of Low-Income People

Civil legal aid is a critical but often overlooked tool for improving health equity in our communities. A recent study, which was reported in the New Orleans Prosperity Index: Tricentennial Collection, entitled Advancing Health Equity in New Orleans: Building on Positive Change in Health, found that one of the most effective ways to improve health equity is to address social determinants of health. Through our partnership with Daughters of Charity Health Centers, SLLS works to address the social determinants of health - breaking down legal barriers to healthy homes and lifestyles, obtaining access to transportation for medical appointments, ensuring patients can get healthy food, and protecting health insurance coverage.

A recent client, Mr. J, worked his entire life in labor-intensive jobs that wore his body down. He also suffers from complications of diabetes and cognitive and learning disabilities. As a result, Mr. J can no longer work. When he was denied Disability benefits, we stepped in. We helped Mr. J get the Disability benefits he had earned and deserved. We represented Mr. J at his Social Security hearing and won monthly income for him on the spot! Thanks to our work, Mr. J now has access to a phone so he can make appointments and talk to his doctors. Medicaid provides him transportation to his appointments. He has insurance to help him pay for his medications. We also protected Mr. J's food stamps benefits so he can purchase healthier food to keep his diabetes under control. Thanks to civil legal aid from SLLS, Mr. J's health has improved and he has the resources to focus on trying to stay healthy in the future.

To read the full study, go to https://s3.amazonaws.com/…/r…/prosperity_brief_broussard.pdf

Helping People With Disabilities Access Medical Care and Housing

Mr. J was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening disease that attacked his cartilage and left him bound to a wheelchair. During the treatment process, the medicine affected his bone strength and began to deteriorate his memory. As a result, Mr. J was no longer able to return back to his job.

Now faced with unemployment, as well as the inability to afford a caretaker, his wife was forced to take leave from work to care for her husband. Without a steady source of income, Mr. and Mrs. J quickly went into debt trying to pay off their medical bills. Additionally, they were denied Social Security disability during that time frame.

However, things began to change after they contacted Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS). With our help, Mr. J was approved benefits. Afterward, he was able to pay off his bills and receive access to medical care.

Most importantly, SLLS was able to give him and his family the peace of mind they deserve.

Protecting the Homes of Hard-working Families

 

No child should be forced to spend their nights sleeping on the sidewalk or under a bridge. For some families, a Section 8 housing voucher can make or break whether or not they will be living inside of a house or outside on the streets.

Ms. S was grateful to have a voucher to ensure her family had a safe place to grow up. She lived in an apartment with both her son and her sister's three kids, who became orphans after their mother died.

For awhile, things went well for the family. However, Ms. S was suddenly faced with the nightmare of losing their apartment.

The Housing Authority had threatened to take away her housing assistance voucher because she failed to give a written notice after she moved out of a subsidized apartment.

Fortunately, Ms. S found SLLS. We represented her in front of the Housing Authority and helped her explain her story to the hearing officer. In the end, she received a new voucher and was given 60 days to find a new apartment - ensuring that her family would continue to have a roof over their head.

Improving Access to Life’s Necessities for All Low-Income People in Louisiana

 

SLLS is committed to ensure that vulnerable people in our state have access to life's basic needs: food, healthcare, housing, and safety.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a. SNAP or food stamps) ensures that nearly 900,000 Louisianians, each year, have enough to eat. One in four families in the state rely on this program to feed their children. Unfortunately though there was a flaw in its procedure.

The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) chose to refuse food stamps benefits to families without being transparent on why the applicants were denied access. Additionally, the DCFS would not offer the applicants with possible solutions to address their problems.

After we found out that information, we contacted DCFS and argued that these failures violated the families' constitutional rights, as well as the state's obligations under federal law. As a result, DCFS changed its policies. Thanks to our efforts, families in Louisiana, who qualify for these benefits, can access the food their families so direly need.

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