For homeless Frederick County residents, perseverance and community support are key to navigating the legal system, according to advocates, the Frederick News-Post reported today.
“Attorneys provide free or low-cost legal advice to homeless families in cases ranging from minor criminal charges, such as panhandling or loitering, to bad debt and landlord-tenant disputes, which may have led to their becoming homeless,” the article said.
“When it comes to civil cases, several organizations in the county provide services, including the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, the Frederick County Bar Association and the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau,” the article continued.
“The Legal Aid Bureau served 1,871 people in Frederick County in 2011, and an additional 69,305 people throughout the state.
“Alecia Frisby [above], a staff attorney at Legal Aid, said the office also refers about 20 cases each month that can’t be handled by her office to the bar association for assistance.
“When it comes to issues in court — criminal or civil — the homeless face more hurdles than other residents, dealing with problems such as how to receive notices from the court without an address or maintaining documents that can help their cases without a place to store paperwork.
“While most people can establish mailing addresses, Frisby said, phone access is a far greater challenge. In cases that move quickly — such as administrative agency appeals and those in District Court — she sometimes needs to ask clients without phones to return to the office several times a day, just in case they need to follow up on something.
“The Legal Aid Bureau tries to be flexible to help with the current needs of their clients, she said. In recent years, they have added weekly clinics that address unemployment and bankruptcy issues.
“‘I think we do the best we can. We’re constantly evolving. We’re always trying to determine what are the needs of our client base and how can we respond,’ Frisby said.”
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