For over 40 years, Community Legal Services has been providing low-income residents with free legal help.
With a new, more convenient location and over 10 areas of specialization, residents are able to turn to a dependable source for help.
In a neighborhood where the poverty level is 24 percent greater than the average level in the city, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is a strong demand for free legal services in North Philadelphia.
Residents like Everette Urquhart, who works at Max’s Steaks, said she recognizes the impact the legal center has in a neighborhood like Tioga-Nicetown as well as the impact it has on her friends who are former clients.
“We don’t have anywhere else to go for legal help in this neighborhood, for the most part there’s nothing here. A lot of people here don’t have enough money to travel to downtown, this is all they have,” Urquhart said.
Some clients find themselves in the lobby of Community Legal Services for legal issues relating to energy and utilities or public benefits. Then there are some, like Janie Brown, who have housing legal issues and once feared that she would lose her home.
“I truly didn’t think there was any help for me, “Brown said.
After living her house of over 20 years, Brown’s landlord asked if she wanted to buy the house. Brown made a decision to purchase the house and went to a loan company to receive a mortgage.
The 88-year-old resident never missed a payment, but once she completed her 15-year loan, she received a notice for a hefty final payment.
The mortgage company sent her a bill of $17,000 and explained to her that she would have to pay it all at once since it was a balloon payment, which she did not understand.
When she called her daughter to tell her about what she received in the mail, her daughter told her about the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.
After traveling to the old location of the law center in North Philadelphia, Brown found herself a lawyer and confidence that she wouldn’t lose her house.
“I am helping her get a deal with her mortgage company, we are not done yet but I am confident she won’t lose the house,” Beth Goodell, Brown’s lawyer, said.
With serving over 14,500 clients annually, Janie Brown and Everett Urquhart’s friends are just a small fraction to the number of low-income residents who seek legal help.