The Poor Could Have a Harder Time Finding Legal ServicesBy Daniel Cherry | Published 06 Jan 2012 06:40pm |
Some of Mississippi's poorest residents could find themselves defenseless because of cuts to a free legal service. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyer Project is asking for help so they can help others.
The Mississippi Volunteer Lawyer Project works to connect disadvantaged residents in need of legal help with attorneys looking to perform pro bono work. Geraldine Evans of Columbus took care of her grandson Tory since he was 4 days old. Finally when he was 13 she was able to adopt him.
"Actually we wanted to do it earlier than that, but it was terrible. Money, money, money always money."
That's when Evans contacted the MVLP. She and her husband are both disabled and living on social security, so money is tight. Without an attorney, Evans says she had no chance.
"I would have never been able to figure it out on my own. Not ever."
The MVLP is losing about $150,000 in the coming year due to cuts in funding. Shirley Williams the Executive Director gets emotional as she flips through a stack of comments made by those who had been helped.
Reading: "I just want to thank the Mississippi Volunteers Lawyer Project for all of your help. I can sleep better at night. I can make plans now. thank you." Willaims says, "She put a little smiley face there. These are the kinds of things that we get from individuals."
The project helped nearly 7,000 people last year. That's down by nearly three thousand from 2010, but Williams says with the economy is bad shape, demand is higher than ever.
"Most of these cases that we deal with help women, children, the elderly. These are vulnerable people. They're not criminals. We don't do any criminal law."
Williams says it's going to get tougher in the coming years. The Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project is expecting a nearly 10% cut in 2013. The MVLP says anyone who wants to help can make a donation to their cause.
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