Giving People a Voice
You and your children moved from a shelter into an apartment a month ago, paying your security deposit and your first month’s rent. You have since discovered problems with pests and mold in the bathroom, and you are concerned about your children’s health and safety. You have contacted the landlord for help, but he has not returned your calls. Where do you turn?
Our justice system is built on equal rights. But rights mean very little if you don’t have access or the ability to enforce them. The legal needs of low-income people alarmingly outpace the resources available. In fact, in Minnesota, there is only one legal aid attorney for every 3,682 eligible clients.
United Way partners with five local nonprofits in the area of legal services, providing funding commitments of just under $1 million per year over three years. Our investment represents a growing recognition of legal services as a key anti-poverty strategy of its own, rather than as a component of other basic needs support.
One of United Way’s partners is Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.
“Civil legal aid stabilizes communities by opening the doors to our justice system,” said Cathy Haukedahl, executive director. “It helps people secure greater income and financial stability leveraging consumer protections, safeguarding government benefits, and accessing tax credits. It prevents homelessness by defeating illegal evictions, ensuring buildings are safe and habitable and landlords act without discrimination. It improves health and well-being by establishing care coverage and interrupting the negative social determinants of health. And it is one of the most powerful tools to protect families from violence.”
“In short, civil legal aid is a critical step onto the pathway out of poverty. With support from United Way, we ensure that justice is not reserved for those who can afford it.”
Perhaps most significantly, legal services elevate the voice of underserved communities, providing low-income people with the tools they need to fight for and defend their rights.