Join the Campaign for Giving Tuesday
This holiday season, we are grateful for the beloved faces we see gathered around us, for the roofs over us, and the nourishment before us. We rest confident knowing that if any of these cherished human rights – family, shelter, food – are in jeopardy, we can pursue protections and remedies through our nation’s great legal system.
So many of our neighbors, however, lack that confidence. They have no reason to believe that the justice system is fair and can work to protect them and right wrongs committed against them. Civil legal aid programs like New Hampshire Legal Assistance and the Legal Advice & Referral Center are there to right those wrongs, to stand up for the rights of our vulnerable neighbors.
The Campaign is close to reaching its goal of raising $350,000 for civil legal services in New Hampshire for 2015. We have little time left before years’ end but we can get there with your help.
Will you answer the call and help the thousands of New Hampshire residents who need civil legal aid to secure their basic human needs of shelter, safety and sustenance?
We asked former NHLA and LARC clients, “what are you thankful for?”
Click the + on the right to open a new story.
Robin: Being free of my abusive relationship, and knowing my children are safe
“Even if I was able to keep my abuser out physically, you can still do a lot of damage with legalities,” says Robin, a survivor of domestic violence who turned to New Hampshire Legal Assistance for help getting a divorce and parenting plan.
Brian: Keeping the power on
Getting his mail one day, Brian* noticed yellow tickets stuck to the front door of his apartment building. They were from the power company, threatening to shut off the electricity because of unpaid bills.
The landlord had left the bills unpaid as he negotiated to sell the building. But when the deal fell through, he had left Brian in the dark.
Brian tried to call the electric company and offer to pay the bill himself, but the company wouldn’t talk to him because he wasn’t the account holder. He started to panic.
With intense asthma, COPD and sleep apnea, Brian relies on electric machines to help him breathe. And his 13-year-old daughter relies on him.
“I can’t go to sleep without using these machines, or I’ll stop breathing,” he said. “Losing power for who knows how long, that’s just not an option for me.”
A case worker at New Hampshire Housing told Brian to call LARC.
“The first conversation, it was an in-take call, and I didn’t know what to think. I had already gone three days without answers from anyone,” he said.
Within hours, a LARC advocate called Brian and advised him to contact the Public Utility Commission’s Consumer Advocate, who might be able to prevent the shutoff. LARC also advised Brian of his right to file a petition at court to restore the electricity should the landlord allow it to lapse.
“I went from having no options, feeling like the big guy is stomping on me, to feeling like I don’t have to have someone with big power controlling everything,” Brian said.
“LARC was a way to get the information that a normal average Joe wouldn’t have any idea how to find.”
*Client name has been changed
Kelli: Having the confidence to stand up for myself in court
Kelli loved her work as a nurse, and loved being able to support her daughter and disabled mother, until she sustained severe brain damage in a stroke. The damage left Kelli unable to handle long-term critical thinking, like what to do after her landlord said he planned to kick her and her family out for not paying rent.
But she had always paid, in full and and on time. Kelli believes he wanted her to leave because she complained about tripping in a hole he had left unfilled on the property. Not knowing what to do, Kelli called LARC, where an advocate found errors in the landlord’s paperwork.
“Before, I felt like I was all alone, like I had no teammates, and (my advocate) made it seem like I had a big team, even if it was just one person.”
Kelli’s advocate wrote a motion to help her get the case dismissed, and explained how she should present her case. Then Kelli went to court on her own and argued, successfully, against the landlord’s experienced attorney.
“I wasn’t even that scared,” she said. “It’s a life saving thing. When you’re so low and you’ve got no resources, when someone makes you think, ‘I can get through this,’ that just means the world.”
Horace: Accessing my veterans benefits means I no longer need food stamps
Horace* graduated from basic training with the military on his 18th birthday.
“I’m just patriotic, I guess. I wanted to serve,” he said, reflecting on his two years in the Air Force and his decision to re-enlist in the National Guard when he returned home to Littleton.
During his time with the Guard, he suffered a back injury that left him with herniated disks, unable to lift much weight, or stand or sit for extended periods of time. It effectively ended his career in construction and trucking.
“They told me I’d be in a wheelchair by the time I hit 60, . . . but when I applied for Social Security, they denied I had a disability,” Horace said.
“I was really at a loss, I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
An NHLA advocate worked with Horace to secure his benefits.
“If it wasn’t for (my advocate) I would still be fighting to get my disability. I wouldn’t have gotten it if she hadn’t directed me through that maze. I never wanted to be rich, but it’s made my life so I can tolerate it. It’s just made such a difference. I’m no longer on food stamps. It gave me back some of my pride.”
*Client name has been changed