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MLK Jr.’s Dreams Deferred by Government Shutdown

Posted by on Jan 21, 2019 in Blog, Client Story | Comments Off on MLK Jr.’s Dreams Deferred by Government Shutdown

As the partial government shutdown drags on, its effects are being felt acutely by some of the most vulnerable Illinoisans. Land of Lincoln Legal Aid provides free civil legal services to low-income individuals in 65 counties in Illinois. Some of Land of Lincoln’s clients are federal workers who are deeply impacted by this shutdown. For example, Ramona Wilson (not her real name) and her three kids are a family who have been assisted by us in the past and who achieved financial stability as a result, but who are at risk of homelessness if the shutdown continues. You see, Ms. Wilson works at a federal agency. She started as a seasonal contract worker and didn’t earn a lot, particularly for a family of four. We helped her with a bankruptcy to prevent her limited income from being garnished by a creditor. After her bankruptcy was finished, Ms. Wilson was debt-free and hired as a full-time employee at the federal agency. As a result, she no longer qualified for our assistance. But today, Ms. Wilson’s family’s stability is uncertain. Since she has been furloughed by the federal agency for nearly a month, she missed her January car payment and couldn’t pay her insurance. She has no money to pay her February rent. She has applied for SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps) which haven’t been approved and likely won’t be at this time. She’s behind on her utilities. She’s going without trash bags and laundry detergent, to name just a few things we take for granted. She’s been told she may need to return to work at the agency without pay, but she doesn’t have the $5 a day necessary for parking and has only 131 miles left in her gas tank. She’s considering selling her plasma twice a week to pay for parking and food. And federal workers aren’t the only ones impacted. More than 1.8 million of our friends and neighbors in Illinois receive SNAP benefits. Next week, they will receive the last round of benefits until the government shutdown ends—if it ends. Otherwise, once their benefits run out, they will go hungry, including many, many children. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. As we approach Martin Luther King Day, I am reminded that at the time of his death, Dr. King had launched his Poor People’s Campaign which was motivated by a desire for economic justice: the idea that all people should have what they need to live, specifically income and housing. In one of his sermons, he explained, “We read one day: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists …We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that is signed years ago.” Ms. Wilson isn’t asking for much. She wants to return to work, pay her bills, and take care of her family. Our friends and neighbors in need just want to be able to be assured that the next time they go to the grocery store with their SNAP benefits, it won’t be their last trip there for months With the government shutdown continuing, we hope you will consider donating to food pantries and organizations that help with rent and utility assistance. Not only will Ms. Wilson, and many, many other Illinoisans appreciate...

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Legal Services for Veterans

Posted by on Nov 6, 2018 in Blog, Client Story, Funder, Veterans | Comments Off on Legal Services for Veterans

It’s Veterans Day and we honor veterans and service members in Illinois and across the nation who have served in the military to protect our country, our freedom and our American values. But when the holiday has come and gone, more than half a million veterans remain homeless, and many more face legal problems that they struggle alone to resolve—eviction and foreclosure, custody of their children, child support, and obtaining benefits, among others. While there is a constitutional guarantee for legal representation in criminal matters, no such right exists for civil legal matters. Therefore, veterans who risked their lives for the safety of our country are left to sort through their complicated legal issues alone if they cannot afford the assistance of a lawyer. Fortunately, Illinois has stepped up to address this issue. The Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN), a project of the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation which Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation is a part of, seeks to correct this problem. IL-AFLAN provides free legal help to veterans, active duty military and their spouses and dependents across Illinois. The network does so via a telephone hotline. Those who need help can contact 1-855-452-3526 or visit the website, www.ilaflan.org. One veteran, a current law enforcement officer, saw the IL-AFLAN hotline number in a magazine, and called it for help.  He had physical custody of his eight-year-old daughter, but his ex-wife refused to pay child support or officially change legal custody. He lacked the funds to initiate a lawsuit, but he called the IL-AFLAN hotline, which immediately connected him with a Land of Lincoln attorney. She represented him on a successful motion to modify custody, and he receives support and was able to enroll his daughter in his local elementary school. Without IL-AFLAN, this veteran may never have gotten connected to an attorney who could assist him with his legal problem. However, not everyone needs an attorney to represent them. The IL-AFLAN hotline is staffed by attorneys who have been able to resolve 65% of calls by providing callers with instructions and advice, as well as help completing forms and documents. When more than a phone call is needed, the caller is referred to an appropriate IL-AFLAN member, like Land of Lincoln. Since its launch last year, the IL-AFLAN statewide network has provided civil legal services, ranging from brief advice to extended courtroom representation, to over 2,000 veterans and service members. Many of the legal difficulties veterans face are directly tied to economic, family and housing stability. Without access to legal services, these veterans would have had to face life-changing problems alone, potentially with dire consequences. Veterans not only deserve our praise, they deserve legal help when their families, housing, and economic stability are on the line. Any veteran or active duty military member who is facing a civil legal problem at 1-855-452-3526. IL-AFLAN is there for you. ——————————— Clarissa Gaff is the Executive Director of Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance...

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Carbondale Attorney Wins State Bar Association Awards for Public Service

Posted by on Aug 3, 2018 in Blog, News | Comments Off on Carbondale Attorney Wins State Bar Association Awards for Public Service

Carbondale attorney Paul Matalonis received the Illinois State Bar Association’s highest award for public service, the Joseph Bartylak Award, on July 18, 2018. Matalonis has worked for Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation for 34 years after volunteering for the organization as a law student. The award is presented annually to a legal service attorney who “provides extraordinary, compassionate and successful legal advocacy, significantly advances access to quality legal representation, and serves as an example through a record of exceptional advocacy, leadership and dedication for the importance of providing civil legal services to the state’s most vulnerable citizens.” Matalonis has represented thousands of low-income individuals in civil cases during his tenure at Land of Lincoln. He is also a statewide expert in housing law, served as Land of Lincoln’s  Housing Law Task Force Chair for 14 years, and he was the Board President of the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless for seven years.  In a recent lawsuit, Matalonis successfully prevented a tenant’s eviction and obtained $10,000 in damages for her. In response to winning the award, Matalonis expressed that his award would serve as inspiration to other attorneys to work on behalf of low income people. He also said, “The last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America state ‘and Justice for all!’   Fighting every day for the last 36 years to make this a reality for some poor people in Southern Illinois has been a very worthwhile profession. “ He added, “ I hope the recognition I receive for this award will inspire others to stay in this fight and the majority of my peers to join in.” Land of Lincoln Board President John Thies said, “Paul motivates all of us by his dedication to the needs of clients and community. He truly embodies our Mission and Vision.” Matalonis also volunteers with the Carbondale Women’s Center, Buckminster Fuller Dome Home Preservation, and the Southern Action Counties...

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