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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.

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