Writing for The Chronicle of Philanthropy this month, Mary McClymont, President of the Public Welfare Foundation, urges funders to make greater investments in civil legal aid to address a “crisis in our justice system that has been overlooked for too long by philanthropy and the rest of society.”
In Philanthropy Must Step Up for Fairness in Civil Justice, McClymont uses compelling real-life examples that clearly demonstrate the important role of civil legal aid in ensuring fairness in America’s justice system, examples like Dave:
A Navy veteran and single father of three living in upstate New York, Dave sustained a serious back injury during his military service, and as the symptoms grew worse he was limited in how much and how often he could work.Ultimately, he dipped into his savings to continue paying his mortgage. When his savings were gone and he could no longer make his payments on time, his lender filed a foreclosure action against him.Dave and his children might have been out on the streets — yet another example of our growing and disturbing crisis of veterans, to whom our nation owes a debt, struggling to find a place to live. Instead, Dave found a lifeline through the Empire Justice Center, a civil legal-aid organization, which went to court nearly a dozen times to win a loan modification that Dave could afford and that allowed his family to stay put.
The resource crisis in civil legal aid has led to an array of innovations to help serve more people, including new approaches like licensed legal technicians (people who have legal training but are not lawyers), self-help services, automated standardized forms, and technology tools. The Public Welfare Foundation has tried to do its part to foster such innovations… But the programs and services that are making a difference for people in every community in America need additional investment to continue and expand this vital work. Philanthropy is uniquely suited to help meet this need by catalyzing innovations and supporting proven efforts to offer more and better service.