Both representation and free legal advice is provided from a few different Philadelphia based firms. The assistance is for qualified working poor and lower income individuals. There are also programs focused on the disabled, senior citizens, as well as children in the region.
One of the leading pro-bono organizations is Community Legal Services, or CLS. This firm offers help to those who meet certain low income guidelines that are based on certain federal government guidelines. Another option is PLA, or the Philadelphia Legal Assistance.
The organizations will only handle civil cases and not criminal matters. While many different services are administered by each office, some of those that are most requested include assistance with consumer debt issues, help for stopping evictions, advice on applying for public aid such as disability or SSI, and resources for children. All of these, and many more legal concerns, can be addressed by the Philadelphia agencies.
Housing programs assist public, private as well as subsidized, low income housing tenants. Most of the help is around evictions, dealing with discrimination, substandard housing, or illegal lockouts from landlords. If a renter has an eviction notice, then mediation may be coordinated. Or get legal aid in disputing the return of a security deposit.
PLA, working with HUD counselors, will usually advise thousands of homeowners each year about what they need to do to avoid losing their homes to delinquent real estate taxes or a mortgage foreclosure. If they feel it is the best option, the attorneys will sometimes also decide to defend mortgage foreclosure cases in court. In limited cases the best solution may be a bankruptcy filing, so if this is the route decided, they can support that process as well.
The Disabilities and Aging Unit specializes in representing the elderly and disabled in Philadelphia, including Bucks and nearby counties. Paralegals and attorneys will ensure that clients with have access to the public benefits they are entitled too. So get help in addressing challenges to denials of Medicaid, Medicare, or SSI disability benefits. They will also represent those faced with decisions by managed care organizations to deny medical care.
If you have employment related challenges, such as need to contest unpaid wages or illegal firings, then the Community Legal Services Employment Unit can assist. Get advice on tackling barriers to employment, preserving jobs, and seeking unpaid wages. The pro-bono firms also advocate for a wide variety of other employee related issue.
Lawyers can deal with minimum wage and/or payment violations. Way too many people are still faced with discrimination in employment as well based on national origin, race, gender and citizenship status, and legal advice is offered for that as well. Or if your job site is unsafe, then those issues are handled too.
Utility and heating disconnections are addressed by the Energy Unit. The department works to keep the power on for families by protecting the rights of seniors as well as other low-income utility customers. Receive advice on entering into service and payment issues. If you are ill or have a young children at home, learn about what legal protections you have. The also work with Philadelphia Gas Works residential customers and other companies in the area.
The Community Legal Services Public Benefits Unit will offer free legal aid to families applying for food stamps, SSI disability, cash assistance, or health care. Or, if your application was denied or the benefits terminated, the staff can help with these challenges as well. They deal with federal government benefits, state of Pennsylvania and local levels, including the city, county, and regions such as Chester or Bucks County. All types of government aid, including social security, SNAP food stamps and unemployment compensation are addressed.
Consumer issues, such as Homeownership or Foreclosure, are dealt with too. Staff help homeowners in disputes, deal with fraudulent consumer practices and can sometimes provide free aid for contesting residential mortgage foreclosure filing. They also advise consumers on how to deal with abusive mortgage practices and predatory lenders, and lawsuits may be initiated when that is the best option.
Another major focus is on the Migrant Farmworker Legal Problems. Community Legal Services of Philadelphia can help clients be ensuring all of their rights are protected. This includes the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the FLSA Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Pennsylvania Seasonal Farm Labor Law.
Other free services from Community Legal Services or their partner, PLA, in Chester and Bucks County also include the Family Advocacy. This will help parents keep their children and home and is run in partnership with Department of Human Services. The Language Access Project is for people in which English is not their primary language. Lawyers help people overcome barriers to obtaining public benefits, social services, and ensure access to justice.
Some of the other civil matters addresses can include obtaining Driver's Licenses & Birth Certificates, dealing with Debt Collectors, Bankruptcy filings, Taxes, and they can help seniors with Probate, Wills & Estates.
For more information, the main centers to contact are as follows. Resources are available in the entire region, including Bucks.
The Community Legal Services of Philadelphia has a few offices in the county. They are as follows.
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