Community Legal Aid can provide legal services to households whose net incomes are up to 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. In certain situations, CLA can also provide legal services to households whose gross incomes are up to 187.5% of the federal poverty guidelines. These guidelines change in February of every year. CLA can provide services to people who are at least 60 years old whose incomes are above the guidelines. Please see the attached chart for CLA's current income guidelines.
Click here to see CLA's 2013 Income Eligibility Guidelines.
Benefits & Unemployment Unit
CLA's Benefits Unit represents people with cases before the Social Security Administration, Department of Transitional Assistance, and Division of Unemployment Assistance concerning various benefits such as SSI, TAFDC, EAEDC, food stamps, MassHealth, and unemployment benefits. The Benefits Unit also represents people who have wage or employment discrimination claims.
Elder Law Unit
CLA's Elder Unit provides legal services in all cases handled for persons 60 years old and older, including housing cases; SSI and Social Security disability cases and other Social Security issues; health issues including Medicare; nursing home rights; Food Stamps and other benefits; family law, including physical abuse; financial exploitation and consumer rights issues.
Families & Children Unit
CLA's Families & Children Unit provides legal representation to victims of domestic violence primarily in the field of domestic relations law. Such cases involve disputes directly against the batterer, such as divorce, paternity, custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, property division and health insurance. Representation is also provided for relocation, including filing of name change petitions without notice to the abuser, in appropriate situations. The Families & Children Unit also works closely with SAFEPLAN advocates to assist victims in the process of obtaining 209A Abuse Prevention Orders. In complex cases, the Unit provides representation at 209A renewal hearings.
Housing and Homelessness Unit
CLA's Housing and Homelessness Unit provides legal services in the areas of landlord-tenant law, homelessness prevention, foreclosure defense and housing discrimination. The Unit specializes in helping tenants facing eviction, assisting homeowners who are threatened with foreclosure, helping homeless families get access to the state's Emergency Assistance shelter program, and assisting people to get into affordable housing programs. The Unit also runs a fair housing testing and enforcement program. In addition, the Unit has a website, www.livejustice.org which provides legal advice and information to clients on a range of housing issues.
CLA's Immigration Unit represents clients seeking various forms of humanitarian immigration relief. We help immigrant survivors of domestic violence and other crimes to secure legal status through self-petitions under the Violence Against Women Act and applications for U visas. We are also able to assist a limited number of asylum-seekers fleeing persecution in their home countries and unaccompanied minors seeking safety in the US. We provide referrals to other non-profit agencies for those we cannot represent.
Through CLA's Litigation Directorate, advocates work on public interest litigation projects involving systemic or complex issues under the guidance of LACCM's Litigation Director. The Litigation Directorate uses the litigation process to meet the needs of individual clients in complex cases and, where appropriate, seek systemic changes that will have a broad impact on LACCM's client community. Litigation Directorate work also allows advocates to act as counsel for community groups. Examples of Litigation Directorate work include a class action suit in federal court alleging that a Massachusetts bank violated the Social Security Act by improperly taking protected social security benefits from customers' checking accounts in order to collect unpaid debts and a claim in federal court alleging that a Central Massachusetts town had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to build curb ramps throughout the town and by failing to prepare certain accessibility plans required under the ADA.
Legislative Advocacy Directorate
The Legislative Advocacy Directorate allows advocates to undertake legislative advocacy projects, of a long-term or emergency nature, local or statewide, under the guidance and assistance of the Legislative Advocacy Director and in partnership with others at CLA and across the state. Legislative advocacy encompasses many areas including lobbying the legislature and executive branches on proposed bills, speaking at legislative committee hearings, and preparing written comments. It also encompasses actively participating on bar committees and statewide task forces that work on legislative issues, working with the agencies in formulating regulations and changes to existing regulations, and working with the courts on issues affecting the poor and elderly. It may include disseminating information to the press and public through media coverage.
Community Lawyering Directorate
Community lawyering differs from individual case advocacy in that it focuses more on community problem-solving than on litigating cases for individual clients. Through an emphasis on community organizing and empowerment, community lawyering seeks to mobilize neighborhood groups, set a community agenda, and secure public and private resources in an effort to make the community a better place to live. Its goal is to generate outcomes that clients and community stakeholders value, such as increasing public safety, improving the quality of life or facilitating economic development. An example of CLA's community lawyering work was its successful partnership with a local disability rights group to work on a campaign to convince Worcester’s City Council to approve the issuance of two taxicab medallions earmarked for handicap-accessible taxicabs, the first of their kind in the City.