Legal Aid And Community Partners Collaborate In North Minneapolis

Legal Aid
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Jackie is homeless and wants to establish a payment plan with her creditor. She hopes to improve her credit and obtain housing.

Stephen was sent home from work and wants to understand the legal parameters of at-will employment and discrimination.

Talia is a single mother facing a prison sentence. She wants to delegate parental authority to her sister to care for her infant daughter.

All three received legal advice or assistance from Legal Aid lawyers in North Minneapolis. Thanks to four new projects funded by philanthropic, social services, and government sources, Legal Aid has a presence in two locations – NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center and 800 W Broadway.

“NorthPoint is a vital intersection within a vital neighborhood,” says Deputy Director Greg Marita. “These projects provide an opportunity for our lawyers to meet clients in a familiar location, working with people they already know and trust.”

Staff Attorney Glen Drew offices at NorthPoint, Legal Aid’s newest Medical-Legal Partnership. With over 50 patient referrals in his first couple of months, he is seeing a huge unmet need in the community.

“Referrals come directly from health care staff,” says Drew. “I see so many health concerns that neither doctors nor lawyers can solve on our own. This is an opportunity for us to ask the right questions and make some headway on broader social questions and problems.”

Next door at Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (NRRC) in the NorthPoint Social Services building, Staff Attorney Joshua Ladd focuses on economic development. Ladd recently organized a criminal expungement workshop that drew over 80 people from up to 50 miles away. A minor offense from many years ago can make it difficult for people to obtain housing or a job, and to volunteer at their kids’ school or church.

A few blocks away at 800 W. Broadway, Legal Aid holds office hours several times a month. Each of the social service agencies in the building partner with Legal Aid and refer clients with legal questions or problems. Legal Aid Pro Bono Director Kirsten Olson also holds pro bono workshops in the building.

“Our workshops train pro bono attorneys to help clients with discrete legal needs such as eviction expungements, DACA renewal, and estate planning,” Olson says. “The building is perfect because many of our clients are already there for other services. We work together to get people what they need.”

Legal Aid Staff Attorney Mary Kaczorek works with NorthPoint staff on a Hennepin County project that seeks to prevent evictions by addressing housing problems before landlords file the eviction.

“Clients trust referrals that come from an organization with a strong presence in the community,” says Kaczorek. “While I help someone with a legal problem, I like knowing NorthPoint staff is helping them at the same time with other services and resources.”

Thanks to these four projects, northside clients can access legal help without taking extra time off work or paying for transportation or childcare to travel downtown. They can meet with a lawyer in the same building as other services, through professionals they already trust.

“It’s important to us to have a strong presence on the northside,” says Marita. “We maintain our general downtown office where people come to us, but this is a way for us to come to them. Our community partners guide clients to Glen, Joshua, Kirsten, and Mary, who can draw on the expertise and experience of Legal Aid’s nine law units to serve clients in their own neighborhood.”  Leykn Schmatz

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