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 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.
Family Advocates of Central Massachusetts (FACM) is a medical-legal partnership between Community Legal Aid and University of Massachusetts Medical School, UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center, the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center and Family Health Center. Families often ask their healthcare providers for help with issues that cannot be resolved in an exam room or with a prescription. Our attorneys train our provider partners to screen for issues affecting their patients that can be remedied through the justice system, and when necessary, refer patients to CLA.
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 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.