Since 1959, the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County has been helping the county’s low-income and disadvantaged residents access and navigate the civil court system inside and outside the courtroom.
However, increasing budget cuts have rendered Legal Aid to suspend some of its programs and find alternatives to help people in need of legal services. Last year more than 4,800 Santa Barbara County residents were served at legal resource centers where legal aid attorneys provided guidance on common legal issues and helped prepare many people to represent themselves. In California, about 70 to 80 percent of divorce cases involve at least one person who is representing his or herself.
“A lot of people can’t afford an attorney, even if they are middle income, so legal resource centers will help them make those small claims, so they don’t have to hire an attorney,” Legal Aid Attorney Emily Allen, who leads the foundation’s Homeless Advocacy Unit.
While the state largely funds legal resource centers, Legal Aid is responsible for finding funds for other programs. Although the Foundation does receive notable support from cities and the county, private donations also hold legal aid together; studies show that 80 percent of the 65 million of people living in poverty in the United States legal needs go unmet. In large part due to inadequate financial support for legal aid organizations and related programs and services.
Organizations like the Public Welfare Foundation support that philanthropy can also have an impact by embracing civil legal aid as part of its tool kit to advance housing, education, economic security, and other causes central to fairness and prosperity in our nation.
Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County (LAFSBC)