Justice Center sees increasing case load as more people learn about services

October 05 at 4:17 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Justice Center sees increasing case load as more people learn about services
Only six months after the Access to Justice Center opened last year in St. Charles Parish, the numbers already showed there was a clear need for low to no-cost legal services.

“The need is definitely there,” said Laura Tuggle, executive director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. “I think being co-located in the C.A.R.E. Center, where other partners are and we’re so close to the [St. Charles Parish] courthouse where people can be referred, has brought on a really strong response from the community.”

The center, which opened on Sept. 8 on a pilot grant last year from the United Way of St. Charles, exceeded its goals last year. This year, it awarded a $37,000 grant that Tuggle said is higher than was requested.

“We are thrilled about it,” she said.

Additional funding made it possible to expand “desk hours” available to the public for cases on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 to 4 p.m. by appointment.

“One reason we wanted to add to the desk is we exceeded all our outcomes expected in the first year by 25 percent and, in some areas, it was even higher than that,” she said.

Tuggle said they anticipated helping 100 residents last year, but instead helped 125. Cases were opened for 48 households of which 33 percent were for seniors, 25 percent for domestic abuse and 23 percent for disabled people.

“The most vulnerable populations are showing up in much higher percentages than our typical case load,” she added.The increase is likely due to referrals from the Alpha Daughters of Zion, which helps domestic violence victims, which is also in the C.A.R.E center, she said.

“That has been a really great partnership with that organization to help people break free from abuse,” she said.

Tuggle said having an office in the parish also made a difference in the number of people who followed through on getting help because fewer of them were able to go to other centers in Harvey or New Orleans.

This year, Tuggle said she is hoping the Justice Center can meet and exceed those numbers, projecting they can assist as many as 275 households in the parish.

Also, the Justice Center provides “Know Your Rights” presentations, which resulted in assisting another 72 people at those events, she said. This year, they’re planning six presentations and making it available to who ever would like to host it.

Founded in 1967, South Louisiana Legal Services serves half of Louisiana’s low-income people, according to the agency. It has six offices, has at least 100 attorneys and serves 22 parishes, including St. Charles Parish.

Last year, the Legal Services helped more than 27,000 people addressing legal problems that stand between them and family, food, shelter, income, medical care and personal safety.

For the parish, Tuggle added, “I think the numbers tell us who’s got the needs, especially since they’re quite a bit higher than they show up in our case load. People are figuring out how to get to us.”

View other articles written Anna Thibodeaux

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