We had hoped that 2021 would be a calmer year... not the case. As we near the two-thirds mark, we have already seen a series of disasters that will result in increased demand for legal services. While many folks give to well known disaster relief organizations, such as the Red Cross and food banks, few understand how vital legal services are to helping those who have been impacted get back on their feet and gain access to the benefits and relief they are entitled to. Below we have provided links to several sites to learn more about how you can help.
Afghan and Haitian Refugees: Due to manmade and natural disasters, immigration Legal Services Organizations (LSOs) are seeing a huge increase in demand for their services to secure emergency visas and petitions for humanitarian parole.
Give directly to LSOs you already support or those who meet other criteria you have (geography, population served, etc). Many of these organizations, such as Pangea Legal Services (https://www.pangealegal.org), JFCS of the East Bay (https://jfcs-eastbay.org) and Pars Equality Center (http://www.parsequalitycenter.org) have their own online funds.
Give to the GCIR California Dignity for Families Fund. The scope of this fund has recently been amended to include relief for these groups. GCIR will work to help a variety of LSOs assist their clients. For more information visit: https://www.gcir.org/news/safe-haven-afghans-and-haitians-crisis
Provide pro bono support. Many organizations are seeking support from attorneys and legal support staff. While having immigration experience is a plus, many of these organizations will train those who are new to this area. Those who speak languages beyond English are in especially high demand. The three LSO organizations notes above are eager for help.
Eviction Assistance: Many eviction moratoriums are coming to a close and the “eviction tsunami” is expected to commence in September. The “good news” is that there is an increase in State and Federal funds to address this work. That said, many of these grants have “gaps” and/or will not be available for many months. In order to help LSOs with this work, consider:
Unrestricted grants to allow LSOs to cover costs that government grants limit, such as: organizational development, policy & advocacy work, working with clients who fall outside of guidelines, emergency funds for clients to pay down credit card bills and loans.
Provide loans or grants to allow LSOs to commence hiring more staff now.
Contact housing “hubs” such as the Eviction Defense Collaborative (https://evictiondefense.org) and Legal Access Alameda (https://www.vlsc-acba.org) to learn about how you can provide support.
Natural Disasters: Sadly, 2021 has already proven to be a challenging year, with wildfires and hurricanes raging. Below are a few examples of recent natural disasters and LSOs working to support their communities:
Northern California WildFires: The Caldor Fire started Aug. 14 and has since burned more than 276 square miles with only 14% containment as on August 30th. More than 470 homes have since been destroyed and at least five people injured in the fire. Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC) is the service provider in the area. https://lsnc.net/do-you-need-help-recovering-disaster.
Louisiana: The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (www.disasterphilanthropy.org) will be hosting a webinar: Hurricane Ida: Funding Urgent Needs and Long-Term Recovery webinar this Thursday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. ET to look at the storm's impact across Louisiana and the southern United States. Panelists will share the latest information, discuss urgent critical needs, and explore how funders can effectively support relief and recovery efforts in the region. For more local information contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (https://slls.org).
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