Lawyers and Students Pitch In
Legal services at CFB have become a vital part of helping those in need. They improve access to income, food and health care for our clients. Lawyers and students working through the Public Benefits Legal Clinic have been making a difference this way. “This innovative collaboration with CFB has been extremely successful. Many of the families we have helped at the clinic were not aware of our services, but were in dire need of the type of legal assistance we could provide them,” says clinic attorney Lydia Glasson.
The legal clinic is an outreach office of Southern Arizona Legal Aid. This Tucson-based nonprofit provides free civil legal services to qualified low-income persons. Legal Aid assists people with housing, domestic relations, public benefits, disability, consumer, bankruptcy, education and immigration cases.
Under the supervision of Glasson, a Legal Aid public benefits attorney, student interns from the U of A College of Law provide legal services to individuals and families with problems involving Food Stamps, Social Security, Medicare Part D, Medicaid and several other programs. In addition, a social work intern from ASU helps clients apply for benefits, and provides supportive services such as locating housing, food, and healthcare for clients.
The legal clinic’s services are coordinated with the services offered by CFB’s Community Food Security Center. “The opportunity to coordinate our services with CFB has resulted in providing effective services to the low-income community in Pima County,” says Glasson. CFB advocates refer clients with legal issues to the clinic. Many of these families have multiple legal and social problems that ultimately affect their ability to become self-sufficient.
Most legal clinic clients are elderly, disabled or immigrants. Often they are either unaware of or confused about their eligibility for various formal food assistance programs. The legal clinic does a full assessment of each individual’s needs to determine how available programs such as job services, utility assistance, Food Stamps, WIC or health insurance can be maximized. In addition to providing legal assistance, the clinic educates clients about services offered by CFB such as food boxes, farmers’ markets, the Value Foods Store and gardening programs.
Since the establishment of the clinic in 2004, over 240 cases have been opened, leading to the referral of over 500 individuals to Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s central office or other agencies in the community for legal or social services.