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Bay Area Legal Aid

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Crime & Law, Legal Services

Mission: BayLegal is committed to providing equal access to the justice system and free, high quality legal assistance regardless of a client’s location, language or disability.  Access to quality legal assistance and advocacy is crucial for these individuals to understand and assert their rights to create stability for themselves and their families.  Without free civil legal services such as BayLegal’s, these members of our community have no recourse when their basic rights are violated or not being exercised.  Over 1.2 million residents* of the San Francisco Bay Area are living in poverty, and all of them are at risk for a number of destabilizing factors that plague the working poor.  These individuals and families are at high risk for lack of sufficient resources to meet basic needs like food, clothing and utilities; unfair treatment and discrimination by landlords; and lack of access to health care.  For this vulnerable population, an unwarranted eviction notice, the presence of domestic violence, wrongful termination of healthcare benefits or difficulty in overcoming barriers to employment can have devastating results. Families may lose or be denied housing, employment or vital medical treatment.  In the long run, the constant stress caused by these types of chronic problems can lead to family dysfunction and breakdown. There are often simple legal solutions to these kinds of problems, allowing these vulnerable residents to begin to move out of these desperate conditions.  However, the many burdens of a life of poverty make it extremely difficult, if not impossible in some instances, for a family to focus on a potential legal problem in order to see if it can be resolved.  In many cases, low-income families are not even aware of their legal rights.  Recent studies demonstrate the difficulty low-income residents face when trying to access legal assistance - a 2002 report by the California Commission on Access to Justice stated that 72% of all low-income Californians do not have access to a lawyer when facing a serious legal issue; and on average low-income households experience at least one civil legal need per year (Legal Services Corporation). *Residents living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.

Geographic areas served: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties

Programs: Bay Area Legal Aid provides free civil legal services to low-income residents of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties. Legal assistance includes information and referrals, advice and brief service, legal representation, public policy development and improvement, trainings at community-based organizations, and community education and outreach. All services are provided in multiple languages and in a culturally sensitive manner. BayLegal focuses its resources on four priority areas identified by clients and the community as the most pressing needs: domestic violence prevention, affordable housing and homelessness prevention, access to health care, and economic security.  Domestic Violence Prevention: BayLegal helps victims of domestic violence navigate the various legal, housing, and income options available to them as they strive to end the violence and create a safe and stable environment for themselves and their families. We help victims with restraining orders, child and other support orders, residence exclusion orders, unwarranted evictions, and priority transfers within public housing.  Housing Preservation: BayLegal housing advocates strive to prevent homelessness and to preserve and expand affordable housing by enforcing housing laws and regulations. Clients who are victims of illegal evictions, discrimination, substandard housing, or other violations of their housing rights are represented.  Health Care Access: BayLegal helps people to enroll in and obtain services from health insurance programs for the indigent, including Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, and county care programs. In addition to providing brief services and extended direct representation, BayLegal conducts education and outreach activities at community-based organizations and public policy advocacy.  Economic Security: Advocates work to secure income and support services for those who qualify for public benefits such as SSI, CalWORKs, General Assistance, Food Stamps, and In-Home Supportive Services. Cases primarily involve assisting clients in reversing unfair terminations or denials. BayLegal advocates also strive to improve the administration of these programs, thereby helping public agencies become more responsive to the community?s needs.

Community Stories

4 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 2

I didn't particularly like the attitude of one of the lawyers. She seemed unfriendly & not concerned with my case. Next time, I will steer clear of Ms. Chen. She was unhelpful.

Client Served

Rating: 5

We are a low income family rented an apartment that was horribly infested with fleas. Our landlord refused to provide us with a clean apartment to temporarily stay while waiting for the pet control spray causing us to be homeless for nearly 2 months while still having to pay for the rent. We have come to Bay Area Legal Aid in San Jose, CA and got all the help from the staff to get justice done. My family and I would like to thank Bay Area Legal Aid Team for their support and hard work to bring a result to my case. We went to court and got a very good result. Without help from Bay Area Legal Aid, poor family like us would not stand a chance against those big corporation who do not do the right things.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am student in Cal State East Bay University. Studying Health Science going as a second Bachelor degree. I am from Jordan. Going to graduate in spring 2011. I am a single mother. I have wonderful boy he is 7 years old. I came to US in 2003 with my husband, married for 5 years. I get divorce after 5 years marriage from my husband. I was alone no family and no income. I have hard time all my years’ marriage ended with domestic violent. I contact Legal Aid to get help. They contact me fast and served me with wonderful lawyer Ms "Susan E. Casey" she help me a lot doing my court paper and keep contact me by phone and she even come to my house interviewed me because at the beginning I don't know how to go to her office because my ex husband doesn't allow me to drive far away from my house. She was very nice and any time I need to talk with her or have any problems or advice she responds immediately without any complain. She is a wonderful woman. Without Legal Aid and without lawyer Casey I can't finish my divorce paper and take the custody for my son. I am now almost finishing my study I still need 2 quarter to finish to have my degree in Health Science. I am doing a volunteer work in hospital in Administration department to have some experience help me to find a job after I finish. hopefully I can find Job.


Client Served

Rating: 5

I contacted Bay Area Legal Aid after I tried to find help everywhere else to no avail. It took a little time for them to be able to find someone to handle my case, but once they did I was put in touch with a wonderful and caring attorney named Susan Casey. She is handling my complicated divorce case pro-bono, as I can not afford to hire someone. My divorce was more than your typical departure of a relationship. My ex was threatening my life, as well as vandalizing my property, among other things making my daughters and my life way more difficult than necessary. I had no family in California and was still residing next door to me ex, so as you can imagine it was a volatile situation. Because of this, I was trying to move out of state with my daughter. However, everywhere I turned for help, I was basically told that he could do whatever he wanted to us, and the likelihood of me moving away with our daughter was still extremely slim. This might be a good time to mention that the courts offer all kinds of self help, in all types of situations... except move aways. So long story short Sue Casey was able to help me get moved out of state legally, while she handles my divorce case. She keeps me up-dated regularly with how things are going on my case, and handles all of the mediation so I don't have to deal with my ex. After my divorce is finalized Sue is going to help me get child support going, as I haven't received any help from my ex in about six years. This has been a life changing experience as I am now living thousands of miles away from harm and enjoying my new life. My daughter is very happy and finally doing well in school and her social life, and we owe it all to the Bay Area Legal Aid, and Susan Casey who volunteers for them.