The Battered Women’s Legal Assistance Project (BWLAP) offers comprehensive civil legal assistance to victims of domestic violence to help them rebuild their lives safe from abuse. BWLAP advocates handle complex family law cases involving child custody and visitation, paternity, child support enforcement and divorce. They also assist domestic violence victims with other legal issues, such as securing housing, health coverage and domestic violence-based immigration status.
The Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime Initiative ( CLAVC ) helps victims of crime with their crime-related civil legal problems — including family law, housing, immigration, disability rights, child welfare, education, consumer, identity theft, employment rights and public benefits. The applicant for services must be a victim of a crime which is connected, directly or indirectly, to the legal matter for which the client is seeking our help. There are no financial eligibility restrictions for our work under this grant. The CLAVC Initiative is supported by the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance through a Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
CLA’s Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and Re-entry Project addresses civil legal barriers related to criminal records. The project assists people with accessing, understanding, correcting, and sealing criminal records, appealing denials related to housing and jobs because of CORI, and reinstatement of drivers’ licenses. The Project also provides community legal education about CORI-related laws and rights.
The Disability Benefits Project (DBP) provides legal assistance to low-income people who have been wrongly denied federal disability benefits or who have had their benefits erroneously reduced or terminated by the Social Security Administration. In addition to offering assistance in individual cases, CLA’s DBP advocates provide training for consumers, social service workers and the private bar.
CLA’s Education Law Project keeps children out of the “school- to-prison-pipeline” by helping students obtain services that can mean the difference between graduation and incarceration. These services, required by federal and state law, are crucial, especially for students with disabilities, who are more likely to display the types of behavioral problems that can land them in repeated suspensions, out of school, and into juvenile detention facilities.
With the Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s support, CLA’s lawyers assist vulnerable residents of Berkshire, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties with family law cases involving divorce, child custody, safe visitation, and child support. Many of the project’s clients need CLA’s help in breaking free from domestic violence and becoming safe and self sufficient.
The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts supports this project, which enables CLA to provide on-site services to students of Greenfield Community College who need help resolving legal matters that are impeding their ability to thrive in school, including eviction, termination from benefits programs, or domestic violence. Through a combination of outreach, community education, and advocacy, CLA helps GCC students overcome barriers to success in school.
With support from the Harry H. Dow Memorial Legal Assistance Fund, CLA aims to increase access to legal services and address the needs of the significant Asian immigrant and refugee populations in the Worcester area. Recognizing the underlying challenges for many low-income and Limited English Proficient speaking individuals and families, our project’s outreach and advocacy efforts are tailored towards providing culturally and linguistically responsive advocacy, community education and public awareness of the challenges facing this population. This project will also highlight the assets this community brings to central Massachusetts and will engage and collaborate with the community and its stakeholders to promote positive impact and empowerment.
With funding from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, CLA advocates assist low-income and elderly tenants living in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties with their eviction cases in the Western Mass. Housing Court, meeting them in court on the day of trial and helping them fill out necessary paperwork, negotiate with their landlords, and present their case to the judge.
A medical-legal partnership (MLP) combines health and legal services at a single site of care to address legal problems that have an impact on overall health. Community Legal Aid has two medical-legal partnerships in Central and Western Massachusetts.
Advocacy for a Healthy Community: Through a Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Pro Bono Innovation Fund Grant, Community Legal Aid and UMass Memorial Health Care have joined to improve the health of low-income families in Central Massachusetts by tackling these unmet health-harming legal needs faced by the system’s most vulnerable patients. Pro bono assistance from volunteer attorneys enable these families to gain access to stable and affordable housing, education, public benefits, affordable health coverage, and guardianships.
The BeHealthy Medical-Legal Partnership: Through a grant from the Massachusetts attorney General's Office, Community Legal Aid is partnering with Baystate Healthcare Alliance and the BeHealthy Partnership ACO to improve the health and well-being of low-income residents of Hampden County by adding legal assistance and advocacy to the range of services offered by the health center care teams.
Learn more about CLA's medical-legal partnerships here.
The Medicare Advocacy Project (MAP) assists Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in traditional Medicare or in a Medicare Advantage Plan. The project helps beneficiaries who are denied coverage for physicians’ services, durable medical equipment, home health care, or skilled nursing facility care; beneficiaries who are forced to leave the hospital prematurely, are denied prior approvals by their managed care plans, or are made to wait for coverage to begin under threat of a premium penalty; and people who need navigating the complex prescription drug benefit. In addition to free legal representation, MAP offers comprehensive and up-to-date education on Medicare. For service in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, or Worcester County, please contact Community Legal Aid. For service in other counties, please contact the MAP headquarters at Greater Boston Legal Services at 800-323-3205.
With funding from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, CLA participates in Senior Partners for Justice – West, a project that recruits, trains, and supports volunteer attorneys who help low-income residents of western Massachusetts with family law cases in the Hampden County session of the Probate & Family Court. In addition, the project assists people seeking uncontested divorces and reviews guardianship case plans at the court’s request.
With support from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, the Uncontested Divorce Project (UDP) provides assistance to low-income individuals seeking simple divorces in Worcester County. The project handles cases where there is no dispute regarding visitation, custody, or property.
With support from the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, CLA works with clients with military experience to provide assistance with military discharge upgrades and character of service determinations as well as assistance with other veteran-specific legal needs. The project’s emphasis is on assisting victims of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) , service members discharged under earlier sexual orientation and gender identification policies and personnel with issues stemming from combat-related injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
With support from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, CLA oversees the Volunteers for Justice (VFJ) project, which trains lay advocates and volunteer attorneys to help tenants whose landlords have brought eviction cases against them in the Hampden County Housing Court. The VFJ volunteers help tenants fill out the necessary forms, assist them in trying to negotiate agreements with their landlords, and, in some instances, represent them at trial if the case cannot be settled by agreement.
The Worcester Fair Housing Project (WFHP), a joint project between CLA and the City of Worcester, provides assistance to residents of Worcester County who have been the victim of housing discrimination. The WFHP has assisted clients in a range of discrimination claims including racial harassment, refusal to rent due to family status, refusal to remove lead paint, interference with housing subsidies, and discrimination based on disability. In addition to litigation, the WFHP conducts education workshops on fair housing laws for tenant groups, social service providers, landlords and other community members. The WFHP also trains civil rights investigators to “test” whether housing discrimination is occurring in the county, in order to support litigation or promote equitable settlements for project clients.
The Honorable Harry Zarrow Homeless Advocacy Project is a collaboration of CLA and the Worcester County Bar Association’s Committee on Services to the Poor and Homeless. Volunteer attorneys visit homeless shelters or other service providers to interview clients with civil legal matters, or are on call to assist when a client has a legal need. They may also provide pro bono representation to these individuals or to homeless shelters and service providers. The Zarrow Fellow at CLA coordinates and provides support to the volunteer attorneys.